Affirm At-Will Status

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. Should our employee handbook include a statement that gives us the right to terminate employees “at-will?” Our headquarters is in New Jersey with another office in Connecticut. —J.W., New Jersey

A. Yes, you should include such a statement. New Jersey and Connecticut are “at-will” states. That means the employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time—with or without cause or notice—as long as it's not for an illegal reason (such as a discriminatory motive) and there's no employment contract.

It's highly recommended that employee handbooks include prominent disclaimers explaining the at-will nature of the job. Good places for the disclaimer include the inside cover of the handbook (in boldface type) and in an acknowledgment to be signed by every employee. Work with an employment lawyer to make sure your disclaimer language is adequate under state law and that nothing in the handbook would undermine the disclaimers.

Because the at-will relationship can be altered by oral promises, take every opportunity to remind employees that employment is at-will. Include disclaimers on applications, offer letters, company newsletters and pay envelopes.

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