What Does “At Will” Really Mean?

Michigan, like many other states, is an at will state for employment. In general, this means an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all.

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It’s essential to remember that the at will relationship can be changed and termination can be limited to termination for cause. If there is an employment contract, an employee handbook, or a relevant policy, these can all potentially change the nature of the relationship.

Collective bargaining agreements can also change the at will nature of employment, if the employee is part of a union.

No matter the nature of the relationship, there are certain reasons that employers cannot terminate employees, even when employees are at will. Some of these reasons include termination based on:

  • Race
  • Age
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Marital status

Employers can also not fire employees who act as whistleblowers or in retaliation for alerting to illegal activities.

Even if you think your employees are at will, it is essential to check with an attorney. Have your attorney review your policies and procedures, employee handbooks, and other documentation and practices that are in place.

Also, prior to terminating an employee, you want to protect yourself as much as possible for any potential discrimination claims.

Disgruntled employees may sue or file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It is important to know the relevant laws and regulations prior to terminating an employee.

A lawyer will help you put the correct documentation in place and ensure that laws are followed to protect you and the employee’s rights.

If you need help with your employee handbook, termination process or employee issues, contact Rickard & Associates today!

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