C&G’s Tip of the week:
At-Will employment- Practice what you preach!!! “For Cause” trumps at-will status
A lot of people already know that Michigan is an “at-will” state. The problem is that not everyone truly understands what “at-will” employment is and more importantly how employment handbooks, contracts and policies must be uniformly and accurately drafted to legally use this “tool”. “At-will” generally means that employers can terminate employees for any reason and no reason at all (except if the reason is illegal in some way, i.e. discrimination, retaliation or other protected reasons; or for union members, if a collective bargaining agreement states that “cause” is required for termination- which is normally the case).
However, if any of your employment documents contain a clause that states an individual can only be terminated “for-cause”, then you do not have the luxury of terminating that person on an “at-will” basis. Because of all of the “wrongful discharge” cases that have ensued, a great deal of employers have updated their handbooks, applications and contracts to contain the proper language. For those that have not- this is of grave concern.
A lot of smaller business owners that have not sought legal advice to this effect may not realize that they have conflicting documents. If you intend for Employee Smith to be “at-will”, not only does your application and handbook need to state that his employment is “at-will”, his actual employment agreement needs to also. Sometimes, owners that have borrowed or accessed templates unknowingly have conflicting language that can present a major problem. Please do not take for granted how important these employment documents are! It only takes ONE employee to sign the WRONG document for you to find yourself in court. Contact us to assist you today!
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