At- will doctrine is a concept that has for many years defined the relationship between employers and employees in America. However, it is usually observable that in most instances employers have taken advantage of the doctrine to terminate employees sometimes with little or no reason leaving the employees hapless. The doctrine basically outlines that in the event that there is no written contact between the employee and the employer and the duration of the relationship is not defined, either the employer or the employer may terminate the relationship at will. (Muhl, 2001) The implication is that an employer can sack an employee with no reason whatsoever.
However, with the unionization of employees several legislative laws have so far emerged that prevent the haphazard termination of employments. In the 1964 the passing of the Civil Rights Act prevented employees from dismissing employees on the basis of such cultural differences as “race, religion, sex, age, and national origin.” (Muhl, 2001) This implied that even with the existence of at- will doctrine, an employer still had to justify that the reason for the dismissal had nothing to do with race, sex, age or national origin. Muhl (2002) goes on to outline that the Federal government under “the public policy exception to employment at will,” prevents an employer to dismiss an employee when the dismissal goes against the policy of the given state. In most states, it is against public policy to dismiss an employee just because the employee requested for compensation after workplace injury. The Federal statute known as “The Sarbanes- Oxley whistleblower provision,” prevents a company from dismissing an employee who has revealed some illegal activity in the company. The vicarious liability is also a provision that prevents an employer from dismissing an employee who has been injured in the workplace, when the court discovers that the employer due to some negligence prevented the injury from taking place. (Roger Meiners, 2009) The retaliation statute is a federal provision that prevents the employer from dismissing employees for an action that is deemed legal by the federal government. In a situation where an employer intentionally alters the contents of the contract with the intention of dismissing the employee the federal government prevents the application of at- will doctrine. The federal statute of ‘promissory Estoppel’ also prevents the employer from dismissing an employee at will in the event that the employee can prove that: “ the employer made a clear and unambiguous promise of employment, the employee relied on this promise, the employee’s reliable on this promise was reasonable and foreseeable and the employer was injured as a result.” (National Conference os State Legislature, 2010)
In Montana, the “Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act,” gave employees the chance to seek judiciary assistance in the instance that they deemed their dismissal wrongful. In most states employees are also protected from dismissal by the “implied contract provision” which gives the employee the chance to contest grounds of dismissal in the instance that some inconsistency is found in the contract. (National Conference os State Legislature, 2010)
At- will doctrine just at a glance gives the impression that it was mostly created or championed by employers to give them freedom to dismiss employees irresponsibly. Although, to some extent the doctrine makes sense to both parties with regard to rights of choice, without control there is a high possibility of abuse of the doctrine. In this case the employer is the most common abuser of the doctrine looking at the level of unemployment. However, this realization has still left many loopholes that have so far made it difficult to formulate statutes to protect the interests of both the employees and the employer. For instance, it would be very difficult for an employee to prove that he/she was dismissed on the basis of some cultural discrimination. The employer has the resources to formulate any other reason to refute such a claim. On the other hand an employee can argue that he/she has been wrongfully dismissed on the basis of some cultural discrimination even when the dismissal was caused by incompetence. This is particularly possible when the employee constitutes a cultural minority in a company. It would be therefore difficult for the court to determine which of the two cases valid. The aim of labor statutes is to protect the interests o both employers and employers, and in this case it would be difficult for either the federal government or the states to formulate laws that protect both parties holistically.