DON’T KILL AT WILL EMPLOYMENT « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Maximize Ability to Manage by Written At Will Employment Agreements

“At will” means either employer or employee can terminate or quit the relationship at any time, with or without notice and with or without a reason.  That’s usually a good thing for an employer since it maximizes the company’s ability to make employment decisions.  The law generally presumes an employee is employed at will unless he or she can prove otherwise, usually through oral statements the employer made.  So why bother with written employment agreements for at-will employees?

Here’s why.  Let’s say Company X woos job applicant Sam, a hotshot salesperson.  During the hiring process, Sales Manager Marty assures Sam that his job with Company X “will always be secure” and Sam could work with the company “as long as he wanted to.”  Sales Supervisor Susan also assures Sam that he would be fired “only if his sales record consistently tanked, which she doubted would ever happen to a superstar like Sam.”

Sam accepts the job offer.  Several years later Company X reorganizes its sales division and lays Sam off.  Having never signed an at-will employment agreement, Sam now sues Company X for breach of contract.

A well-drafted written at-will employment agreement would have avoided this lawsuit.  Thus, to protect the right to fire at will, companies should simply require employees to sign an at-will statement in the employment agreement.  At-will statements can and should ideally be repeated in the employment application and in the employee handbook acknowledgment form.

To avoid any subsequent disputes after the employee signs such statement(s), the employer should also ensure it does not act in a way that could contradict the at will nature of the employment agreement, including making any oral assurances or promises of continued employment.

If you have any questions, please contact me or any of our other employment law attorneys.   Best, Cindy Bamforth