Understanding the exceptions to at-will employment

| Jan 8, 2020 | Contracts |

As an employer in Denver, it is important that you have the ability to properly manage your workforce. Unfortunately, there may be times where that requires reducing it in order for you to counter difficult financial circumstances. That may mean having to let employees who have otherwise done a decent job go. When you are forced to do this, your dismissed employees may counter by saying that you are wrongfully terminating their employment. Many in this situation have come to us here at Overturf McGath & Hull, P.C. assuming that the at-will employment philosophy protects them in these situations. They are often surprised to learn that there are exceptions to this rule.

Per the National Conference of State Legislatures, three major common law exceptions to at-will employment exist. The first (and most obvious) is cases where your employee has an employment contract. Even absent an actual written contract, it can be argued that promises made to employees about employment terms indicate an implied contract. The same may be true if your posted company policies could imply that your employees’ jobs may be guaranteed if they abide by those policies.

Violations of public policy or retaliation against employees may also constitute an exception to the at-will employment doctrine. These can include accusations that you fired an employee for any of the following reasons:

  • Reporting a regulatory violation
  • Exercising their lawful rights
  • Fulfilling obligations meant to further the public interest (e.g. performing military service)

You can learn more about lawfully managing your workforce by continuing to explore our site.