How At-Will Employment Works

At-will employment has two main purposes:

It allows employees and employers to work together without long term contracts or promises from either party. If an employee doesn’t like a job or gets a better opportunity elsewhere, they are free to leave. If an employer wants to change wages, benefits, or let someone go, they can do so freely as well.

It can be a defense for employers in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Most employers hope never to have to defend themselves in court over terminating an employee. The best employers have good documentation when they fire someone, such as performance reviews kept in the employee’s personnel file.

Bottom Line

There are so many exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, that it’s in an employer’s best interest to follow sound HR practices, including stating that “employment is at will” in all employee documentation. Employers should document involuntary terminations with a valid rationale so that they’re prepared in advance to defend themselves against a wrongful termination lawsuit, should one be filed.

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