Q. When we were disciplining an employee, the president of our small company told him that he “will always have a job here.” He’s an at-will employee. Are we now obligated to keep him on if he improves? — C.P., Minnesota
A. You do risk potential litigation if you fire the employee after he improves his performance. Hopefully, you have anthat makes it clear that employees are at-will, and there is nothing in writing to the employee that contradicts this.
When opportunities arise, prepare documentation that clarifies the company’s position. For example, if there will be follow-up, include statements making it clear that nothing about the fact that he is no longer under disciplinary review changes that his employment is on an at-will basis.
I suggest you contact counsel, who can sit down with the company president and explain why promising a permanent job is a bad idea in general, even for excellent employees.