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Employment at Will Doctrine

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Employment at Will Doctrine Kristen Harrison Leg 500 February 4, 2014 Elaine B. Wilson

EMPLOYMENT AT WILL DOCTRINE
The Employment at Will Doctrine The employment at will doctrine was developed in the late nineteenth century, as a default employment contract which was assumed to give employers and employees equal ground to develop wages, benefits, and employment agreements. The employment at will doctrine continues to prevail in all American jurisdictions except Montana. An employer can terminate an employee for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all (Bagenstos, 2013). The employment at will doctrine is void if reason states that it is specifically forbidden by some external source of law, such as an antidiscrimination statue (Bagenstos, 2013).

Employees formed unions during the industrial revolution, in order to toughen their negotiating power against large corporations, which fired employees at will to keep labor cost low and profits high (Muhl, 2001). Before employees formed unions the working conditions were unethical, and favored the employer who could fire the employee at will (Muhl, 2001)The 1960’s was where Federal legislative protections started to play a major part in protecting employees. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act put a damper on the unethical treatment of employees by their employers. The Federal legislation protected employees from illegal discharge based on race, religion, sex, age, and national origin (Muhl, 2001). These Federal protections changed the way that employer and employee relationships where being viewed. Courts and governing bodies gradually began to recognize that employers repeatedly have organizational and fiscal advantages when negotiating with employees (Muhl, 2001).

Public policy is an exception to the employment at will doctrine. Under this exception an employee is wrongfully terminated when the termination is against a clear, well established public policy of the state (Muhl, 2001). For example an employer cannot terminate an employee for filing a workers compensation claim after being injured on the job. The public policy exception is the most widely acknowledged exception, accepted in 43 of the 50 states (Muhl, 2001). Implied contracts are another exception to the employment at doctrine. Implied contracts are formed between employers and employees. Implied contracts can be oral promises, written promises or expectations created by the employer handbooks, all of these supersede the employment at will doctrine (Muhl, 2001).

Applications of Employment at Will Doctrine

John posted a rant on his Facebook page in which he criticized the company’s most important customer. According to utilitarianism John’s actions where unethical; John’s rant on social media hurts the company’s reputations. By John insulting the customer the company may lose their most important customer, and this could make their business go downhill. John’s rant may also affect how other companies view the company in corporate America, and may after future partnerships. John can be terminated for his unethical actions.

Jim sent an email to other salespeople protesting a change in commission schedules and bonuses and suggesting everyone boycott the next sales meeting. While you should address any situation that you don’t feel comfortable in, suggesting a boycott of a sales meeting is not how Jim should have used his negotiating powers. According to utilitarianism unhappy employees do not give their all when working for a company, so Jim may have felt that utilitarianism justified his actions. Commission schedules and bonuses are incentives to employees for good performance on the job. If Jim felt this strongly about changing the policy he should have set up a one on one meeting with management to express his feeling, or he should have tried to gather enough people to form a union. Jim could be fired under the employment at will doctrine because the policy applied to all employees, not just one specific group of employee’s.

Ellen started a blog to protest the CEO’s bonus, noting that no one below director has gotten a raise in two years and portraying her bosses as “know nothings” and “out of touch”. Ellen is entitled to free speech under the first amendment, as long as she is not using company time, and resources to sustain her blog. Deontological ethics could have played a part in Ellen feeling that the bonuses that the CEO’s where receiving where unfair. Ellen may have felt that she was rightfully telling the truth in her blog. Ellen can be fired under the employment at will doctrine, because the CEO’s may feel that her descriptions on the blog violate nondisclosure agreements. Ellen could possibly take the case to court due to the fact that quarterly and annually reports for companies include CEO compensation.

Bill has been using his company issued BlackBerry to run his own business on the side. Bill’s actions where unethical and he could be terminated under the employment at will doctrine for the use of company property for his personal business. Being that Bill’s company issued the BlackBerry for company use and he used for his personal business violates the virtue ethics. Bill using his BlackBerry for personal business shows that he is not devoted to the company one hundred percent.

The secretaries in the accounting department decided to dress in black and white stripes to protest a memo announcing that the company has installed keylogger software on all company computers. The company cannot terminate the secretaries for the color of their clothing as long as the clothes do not go against the dress code policy. The company also has the right to install any kind of software on the company computers, as long as the software is not illegal. Until the virtue of ethics has been shown to have been violated by a secretary who may choose to use the company computers inappropriately, the secretaries have the right to show unity by the colors they want to wear.

After being disciplined for criticizing a customer in an email (sent from his personal email account on a company computer), Joe threatens to sue the company for invasion of privacy. Joe’s actions where unethical according to utilitarianism, he should have never criticized the customer because it does not look good on behalf of the company. It also would not be a good idea for the company to terminate Joe due to the fact that he is suing them, and it would appear to be retaliation and unethical. Joe will probably do this again in the future prompting the company to terminate him.

One of the department supervisors requests your approval to fire his secretary for insubordination. Since the secretary has always received glowing reviews, you call her into your office and determine that she has refused to prepare false expense reports for her boss. Virtue ethics does suggest her being terminated, and the supervisor attempting to get her to prepare false reports was unethical. The supervisor creating false expense reports does not produce the best reflection for the company. The secretary should not be fired for refusing to participate in illegal activities, and the supervisor should be investigated. Virtue ethics proposes that an audit should be conducted on all of the supervisor’s expense reports, and all inappropriate findings should be reported immediately and the supervisor should be fired.

Anna’s boss refused to sign her leave request for jury duty and now wants to fire her for being absent without permission. Due to the fact that Anna’s boss refused to sign the request for jury duty, virtue ethics prevails in this situation. Anna was obliged to complete jury duty; jury duty is a civic duty what all citizens without a felony criminal record can report to the jury pool. No matter what kind of time Anna requested off to attend jury duty it was unethical for the boss to deny her the time off for it.

Whistle Blowers

Whistle blowers are people who decide to report unethical or illegal activities, usually companies, nonprofit organizations, or for the government. They may disclose information inside or outside their organizations to supervisors, regulators, or to the media. The whistle blowing policy should include a clear and concise definition of persons included under the whistle blowing policy (Whistle blowing policy, 2014). The whistle blowing policy should include a confidentiality clause, and a very just communication process (Whistle blowing policy, 2014). Lastly the whistle blowing policy should include a secure process for communicating with employees when receiving information, and addressing concerns.

Conclusion

The employment at will doctrine makes it easier for an employer to terminate an employee for no given reason. But there are statues that help the employees so that they cannot be discriminated against or fired for unjust reasons.

.

References
Whistle blowing policy. (2014). Retrieved February 1, 2014, from Croda: http://www.croda.com

Bagenstos, S. (2013). Employment Law and Social Equality. Michigan Law Review, 225-273.

Muhl, C. J. (2001). The employment ar will doctrine: three major exceptions. Employment at Will, 3-9.…...

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