In American law, at will employment is used to define an employment type that involves the employer or employee having the freedom to break the contract at any time with no liability. As long as there was no prior contract defining the duration of employment, the employers or employees can freely terminate the employment. At will employment means that the employees do not have a formal employment contract with their employers or the state law. Therefore, the law permits that the employment can be ended at any time. For Mary’s case, she could lose her job anytime as long as their “at will” employment did not have a clause defining its expiry. Employees “at will” are also entitled to certain specific legal rights. In this employment, employees and employers can terminate their relationship at any time without any reason or prior notice of termination (Larson, 2003).
The nature in which this form employment works does not deny employees of their rights. These rights pertain the employee’s origin, race, religion, pregnancy status, gender, age, disability and other general, fundamental human rights. However, the employee “at will” mode of employment operates in strict terms. It has to avoid abuse of the employees on the grounds mentioned. Sometimes during employment, the employees are required to sign employment at will forms. This gives the employers a legal right to deploy the employees since the signature is a form of agreement which states that the employee is really employed “at will”. Employees may sign these forms, but failure to sign them should not deny them the job opportunity.
Exceptions of “At Will” Employment
At will employment has several exceptions that pertain violation of the law. These exceptions help to prevent employees from being mistreated by employees or suffering abusive loss of employment. These exceptions are processed as well written clauses of employment in the law of the United States. Therefore, there are several statutory and judge-made exceptions. They are especially appropriate when termination of employees involves discrimination. The issue of imposing exceptions on the employee “at will” has raised controversies in the recent past. In fact, it has resulted to a decrease in the levels of such employment by a substantial rate. These exceptions include:
Public Policy Exceptions
Most states in the United States recognize public policy protections against unfair discharge from employment. The nature and availability of these reasons changes from state to state. If employers decide to fire the employees at will on the grounds against the provisions of the public policy, this results to abuse of the public policy. It means that the employee cannot be retaliated for an action performed in line with the public policy. An example of such an activity is Mary’s action to inform the authority on the illegal billings being made to Medicare. This was an action within the provisions of the public policy, and it complies with the same policies (Barbash, 1982). However, this exception does not exist in the following states; New York, Alabama, Maine, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska and Florida.
Statutory exceptions. The United States uses statutory protections for employees. Most wrongful terminations within statutory exceptions occur within the following parameters; handicap status, color, race, sex, religion, national origin. These are the main points which do not allow employers discriminate the employees at will. Other reasons that fall under the statutory exceptions include; employees refusal to commit illegal acts, family or medical leave within their working period, not following the company's termination procedures.
Whistle blower protections. This protection is, probably, a statutory extension of the public policy. It protects and supports the workers’ actions in cases they are are fired by the employers for informing state regulatory agencies about some of their employers’ activities. The employees must report about misconduct of their employers to the relevant agencies of concern. For example, if the employer is dumping used oil in a storm drain, the employee may report the employer’s action to the environmental protection agency. This exception does not cover other types of disclose such as when employees tell their friends about the employer’s misconduct or when they report the same to the News Media.
As the director of HR for Lake Drive Memorial Hospital what concerns would you have over Mary's Termination?
It is the role of human resource managers to get concerned with terminations and employment in organizations. The human resource manager in Mary’s case should be concerned of protections that the law provides for in the cases of “at will” employment. These exceptions, provided by the law, should be considered by the HR of Lake Drive Memorial Hospital in order to establish the eligibility of Mary’s deployment. Her action was showed her strong will to expose unfair billing being made to Medicare. Under the public policy protection, the termination is undue. Even though Mary was employed on “at will” basis her termination does not respect the exceptions of the public policy. These exceptions provide that employees should not be terminated for their action within their working environment that intends to save their authority from unfair claims (Hill, 1987).When Mary reported the illegal billings to Medicare, her supervisor did not have the right to terminate her. In fact, it resulted to violation of employees “at will” exceptions. As the Human Resource Director in Lake Drive hospital, I would conduct an investigation on the possible destiny of the illegal claims that Mary exposed. The suspected beneficiary of these illegal billings must be Mary’s supervisor and I would consider investigating him or her. Therefore, the HR department should consider granting the job back to Mary because she had only refused to indulge in an illegal act of billing false claims.