What is Employment at Will : Impact on employee rights, discipline, and job termination situations

It is necessary for employers to have the right to make objective decisions about employment without fear that the impacted employees will retaliate with cases of wrongful termination or the court fail to understand the scenario behind the employer’s decision. The employment-at-will doctrine governs when and how the employer and employee may terminate their contract whose term is indefinite. In the United States, employers can fire employees who have no written employment contract for any reason or no reason at all with a few exceptions intended to prevent wrongful termination (Ruud & Becker, 2012). In the United States, for example, employers can change employment terms such as the wage, terminate benefits, and even reduce expenditure on outings for employees. Such employees are significantly vulnerable to sudden dismissal and unannounced cuts in compensation and benefits. The doctrine has resulted in critical analysis by labor organizations globally because of its impact on employee rights and significant change of termination in the labor market.

Employment -at-will doctrine is a threat to employee’s rights in many fronts. Except for the public policy exception of the doctrine, working on such a contract presents numerous opportunities for employers to violate employee’s rights. However, the public policy exception prohibits terminating employees for whistle-blowing, refusing to engage in illegal acts, exercising their legal rights or fulfilling statutory duties (Ruud & Becker, 2012). The National Labor Relations Act and Title VII of Civil Rights of 1964 are among the statutes that seek to offer further protection against violation of employees’ rights. No organization can survive without instilling discipline in the workplace. The human resource department regulates human capital and makes sure the workforce is a competitive advantage to the company. With at-will employees, there is much control over employee discipline because the employer has the right to punish employees that are unwilling to observe workplace policies and rules.

In its entirety, employment-at-doctrine has transformed termination situations in the workplace. There are numerous instances in the modern workplace where employers use employment-at-will doctrine to justify terminations (Marson, 2013). For this reason, an employee may be a victim of wrongful termination and still be unable to prevail with such a suit in court. In such a circumstance, an employer may play down any biasness or unfairness by citing the doctrine. Additionally, at-will doctrine has increased job insecurity because employers can terminate their contract for any reason or no reason at all, even without a prior notice Gertz, 2017). Although it is addressed by the implied-contract exception, there is no absolute protection to employees. Labor unions and organizations have continuously developed regulations to limit instances of wrongful termination in the workplace.


Gertz, S. C. (2017). At-will employment: Origins, applications, exceptions, and expansions in public service. American Public Service, 47-74. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315097336-4

Marson, J. (2013). Employment II: Termination – wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal, and redundancy. Business Law Concentrate, 118-134. https://doi.org/10.1093/he/9780199609062.003.0008

Ruud, J. K., & Becker, W. S. (2012). Employment-at-Will. The Encyclopedia of Human Resource Management, 180-185. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118364741.ch32