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Erase ideas of ‘implied contract’ with repeated at-will statements

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Make sure all versions of your company policies, whether in employee handbooks, online policies or even offer letters, contain clear at-will employment statements.

As this ruling shows, you won't be going overboard even if you list your statement on every single page of your documents.

Recent case: When systems analyst Jessica Foster stumbled across a former employee's performance review, she allegedly read it and talked about it with co-workers. Foster's employer investigated the incident and fired her for violating the company's privacy policy.

Foster sued, saying the company's employee handbook created an "implied contract" by stating that employees couldn't be fired without undergoing progressive discipline and being given a chance to correct behavior.

A district court disagreed and sided with the company. Reason: The introduction and every page of the company's employment guide contained a disclaimer stating that the policies did not create any sort of employment contract, and workers' employment remained at will at all times. (Foster v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., No. 3:02CV1433(PCD), DC Conn., 2004)

Final note: If your organization lays out progressive discipline procedures, make sure your policy also reserves the right to fire immediately for gross misconduct.

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