Q. Our company has an employee handbook. One of our employees has stated that this creates an employment contract and that he is no longer an at-will employee. Is this correct?
A. Not in North Carolina. A unilaterally promulgated employee manual, handbook or policy does not create an employment contract. However, in other states, such as South Carolina, an employee handbook can alter the employee at-will relationship.
The best way to protect against creating an inadvertent employment agreement through a handbook is to include a disclaimer in it.
In North Carolina, the disclaimer should state that the employee acknowledges that there is no specific length of employment, that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship with or without cause at any time, that the handbook is not a contract and that the employee is employed on an at-will basis.