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The employee–at–will doctrine refers to the law that characterizes the relationship between employees and employers whereby either party is capable of breaking this employment relationship without any liability. This employment relationship doctrine allows an employee termination at will by the employer without any restrictions. Such an employee may be hired with no formal employment contract for an indefinite duration reinforcing this doctrine since no contractual agreement is made between the two parties. This doctrine allows employees to quite their jobs for no reason or for a reason at any time. Employment at will does not require an employer to have any good cause to fire his or her employees. This doctrine provides limited rights to the employee in fighting for their employment termination (summers, 2000).
Different laws have been enacted to counter the employee-at-will doctrine. These laws seek to protect employees against being fired. One of such laws includes employee protection from discrimination based on their race, origin, color, age, and disability among others. This legislation restricts the employer’s ability to dismiss or fire employees based on such factors. Another law that counters the employee-at-will doctrine is the law on protection of employees due circumstances such as retaliation because of asserting their rights for instance low wages, working hours, being part of union activities, opposing employer’s decisions especially discriminatory practices, and fighting for compensation of the workers. Such an enactment protects the employees from being fired due to their retaliatory behaviors (Rothstein, Knapp, & Liebman, 1987)
According to Summers (2000), the right to privacy is another law that counters the employee-at-will doctrine. This is the law that accords employees the privacy they deserve in their workplace. It protects such aspects of employee communication as electronic transmissions of messages for example through email. The employer therefore is restricted from unreasonable background search on the employees. Medical reasons and family is another law that allows employees to be provided with a leave to attend to particular family or medical issues. In this regard therefore, an employer cannot fire an employee who takes leave for family or medical reasons. This law therefore counters the employee–at–will doctrine.
These laws are particularly important in the regulation of employment contracts in an attempt to justly offer employee protection from employment relationship that are abusive as well as ensure unreasonable dismissal from employment or firing does not take place. The at-will-employment doctrine is a traditional law and therefore when it comes to employment termination, it is important for an employer to give a justifiable and rational cause of dismissal or firing of employees (Rothstein, Knapp, & Liebman, 1987)
In conclusion, the employee-at-will doctrine whereby an employer is capable of terminating employment for no good reason has been criticized and laws enacted to counter its effects to the employees. The enactment of laws to counter the employee–at–will doctrine has had great impact on employers who must be wary when terminating employment relationship either for good cause or bad cause or for no cause. This is because employees have been protected against job termination by their employers with no good reason. These laws offer employee protection against being fired at work unlawfully. Employees employed without employment contracts by their employers are especially protected by these laws since most are also employed within an indefinite period of time. Therefore these laws define the procedures for employee termination.