Today’s blog post is brought to you by employment and business attorney Manori de Silva of Stanton Law in Atlanta, Georgia. She is qualified as an attorney in England and the United States, speaks Dutch and French, and makes a mean casserole. So basically, she is like her own little United Nations. She has spent the last decade assisting local and international businesses with a variety of employment and commercial matters. If you are in Georgia, California, or in England, and have questions about your wedding business, give her a shout.
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What does ‘terminable at will’ mean? What is a ‘contract of employment’ mean?
Terminable “at will” means that no notice period or reason is required for the employer or the employee to end the employment relationship. There is a caveat though: even if no notice or reason is required to fire an employee, an employer cannot fire an employee for a prohibited reason. “Prohibited reasons” includes terminating because of the employee’s gender, age, race, national origin, disability, or for blowing the whistle on unlawful practices of the employer. There are strict time limits on filing claims so it is important to act quickly if you have been terminated and believe it was for a prohibited reason.
Most employees in the U.S. are employed “at will”. In contrast, a contract of employment refers to an agreement that the employee has specific rights above and beyond the existing laws regarding labor and employment. For example, some agreements can promise employment for a minimum period of time (e.g. a fixed-term contract of two years).
Some employers inadvertently create permanent positions by including provisions which suggest that the employee can only be terminated “for cause”. Sometimes the agreement itself defines “for cause”, but if there is no definition, then courts will look at past cases. What usually happens in this scenario is that the employee is fired and claims that no “cause” existed, leaving the employer facing a breach of contract claim.