No doubt you have an employee handbook. It probably includes a disclaimer warning employees that the handbook isn’t a contract and that employment is at-will.
Don’t let that disclaimer gather dust! In fact, it’s best to include the disclaimer on the very first page. Make sure each and every at-will employee signs an acknowledgement of receipt so you can prove he or she knew the handbook contained no binding promises.
Recent case: Dolar White sued his former employer, The Home Depot, for age, race and national origin discrimination, as well as for breach of contract. He claimed that the company handbook was a contract that guaranteed he could be fired only for cause.
But The Home Depot produced a copy of the handbook. It clearly contained a contract disclaimer. The Home Depot also had a copy of White’s signature on the disclaimer. That was enough under New York state contract law to prevent a breach of contract claim. (White v. Home Depot, et al., No. 04-CV-401, ED NY, 2008)
Final note: If you operate in more than one state or city, it’s a good idea to have your attorney review your handbook. Different states may have different contract rules, and local governments may have laws that impact your handbook, too.
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