As a business owner, implementing at-will employment limits your liability and increases your flexibility when terminating employees. Create an at-will employment form today using verified templates.
Last Update December 20th, 2021
What Is At-Will Employment
At-will employment is a working arrangement that can be terminated by either the employer or employee at any time and without cause and with no notice.
However, an at-will employee cannot be let go for any reason such as disability, sexual or racial discrimination. In addition, the firing cannot be in a retaliatory nature or in violation of public policy.
This type of working relationship decreases the liability of both parties in the event that employment is terminated by either the employer or employee.
At-Will Employment Exceptions
There are various exceptions to the reasons why an employer can end employment in an at-will employment relationship. In this section, we will explore both the federal and state exceptions you should consider when terminating this type of employee.
Federal law prohibits employers from ending at-will employment for the following reasons:
Discrimination: based on race, gender, religion, age, or national origin
Alien status: based on the immigration status of the employee (assuming they are legally allowed to work within the United States)
OSHA requirements: workplace or other hazards reported to OSHA
Polygraph testing: employees cannot be required to take part in a lie detector test
There are various types of state exceptions that may stop employers from ending at-will employment relationships. The most common of these are as follows:
Implied contract exceptions: if there is an implied contract between an employer and employee, even if there is no written document, then the employee cannot be fired. This implication typically arises from oral suggestions or employee handbooks describing termination policies.
Good faith exceptions: employers cannot fire employees at-will when the termination is driven by malintent or bad faith. This is also known as the good faith and fair dealings covenant.
Public policy exceptions: certain states have public policy exceptions to at-will employment, forbidding employers from firing at-will employees for reasons that involve the employee’s compliance with state policy (such as exercising their legal rights)
At-Will Employment Contract Terms
An at-will employment contract should include various terms for it to be valid. These are as follows:
Name of the employer
Name of the employee
Employee’s address, I.D number, and contact details
Date of employment
Duration of employment
Compensation and perks
Notice of termination
Confidentiality or non-disclosure
How to Write an At-Will Employment Contract
Writing an at-will employment contract involves numerous different steps. It’s important to properly follow this process to ensure that the document is legally valid and will not leave you open to legal issues.
Follow these steps to write an at-will employment agreement:
Find an at-will employment agreement template
Introduce the employer and employee in an initial statement
Add the terms of employment
Include extra factors applying to the working agreement
Define how intellectual property should be handled
Document the main rules governing the working arrangement
Insert space for the details and signatures of both employee and employer
At-Will Employment Contract Sample
Before writing your own at-will employment agreement, it’s helpful to look over an example of this type of form. This will familiarize you with how the document should look when completed and what it needs to include.
If you still have doubts about beginning your own at-will employment agreement form, there’s no need to worry. Explore our frequently asked questions to clear up any remaining questions and get started with your own document today.
What Does At-Will Employment Mean?
At-will employment refers to an employer’s ability to dismiss an employee for any reason and without notice or specific cause. It also means an employee can quit at any time for any or no reason.
This type of working structure has grown in popularity in recent years as it affords more flexibility to both parties.
What Are the Rights of an At-Will Employee?
There are various state and federal exceptions to firing an at-will employee. These can range from rules against firing based on discriminatory reasons to public policy regulations. You are also not allowed to fire an employee following an at-will employment agreement that has an implied contract or for reasons stemming from bad faith.
What Are the Reasons to Investigate an At-Will Employee?
It is not necessary to investigate an employee before terminating their at-will employment. This is because they can be dismissed at any time for any reason as long as it is not against state or federal laws.