“Employment-at-will” (EAW) legislation provides regulations and rules that govern private employment. Its provisions ensure minimal regulation of employment practices such as termination and dismissal of employees. According to the doctrine, an employer may terminate an employee without a proper explanation or reason.
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On the other hand, an employee may quit a job at any time without being liable to the employer for inconvenience. Approximately 55% of employees in the private sector in the United States are under the jurisdiction legislation. The principle of the legislation has come under attack in the recent past for its alleged unethical nature. Despite the attack, some people see its ethical nature and fully support it.
Opponents of the doctrine present several claims for rejecting it. First, it does not provide and protect the rights of employees from the perspective of moral rights. For example, it does not stipulate clearly the political, democratic and privacy rights of employees. Therefore, employers can violate employees’ rights without being held liable.
It is discriminatory because employers and employees do not have equal rights. For example, they should all have equal rights to speech. Moreover, it denies employees rights to work-contributions even though managers have rights to execute property claims. However, proponents of the doctrine argue that such legislation does not extend to the private sector and is therefore valid. Employers and employee sign work contracts.
Therefore, workers should set their terms during negotiation stage on how they wish to be treated. Secondly, the EAW does not promote fairness in employer/employee relationship. EAW requires both parties to treat each other fairly and equally. However, implementation of EAW yields different results. It is weak, unreliable, and insufficient. Employers practice power and control over employees because EAW allows them.
It encourages inconsistent and irrational management behavior that results in mistreatment of employees by employers. In addition, it promotes errant behaviors by employees such as quitting their jobs without giving notice to employers. The doctrine is not fair to employees because it promotes harshness and contains assumptions that compromise the employer/employee relationship in favor of employers.
Proponents argue that EAW promotes good practices such as recognition of performing employees by employers. This encourages a “people first’ approach to organizational matters that benefits both employees and employers. Employees are treated with respect. It encourages fair labor practices such as guaranteeing employment security, fir remuneration, and employee empowerment.
In addition, public policy exceptions contained in the doctrine protect the rights of employees and prevents unfair dismissal or termination. Employees may lodge claims against their employers if treated unfairly in contradiction to policy exceptions of the doctrine. Therefore, it protects the rights of employees and prevents employers from terminating employees without good reasons. The “at will” doctrine is flexible in that it can be altered by contract.
For example, an employer and employee can agree that termination can only result from violation of certain agreed conditions. Therefore, dismissing the doctrine as weak and inefficient is erroneous. Another argument in support of the doctrine is that it promotes flexibility and does not hold any party liable for any decision made. It allows an employee to leave if he/she is unsatisfied with the employer. This prevents violation of employees’ rights.
On the other hand, the employer can terminate an employee at will on grounds of poor performance without any liability. Proponents also argue that the doctrine promotes professionalism because the employee can control her career without the interference of the employer. Employees can make decisions that affect their careers without fear of violating any law that governs employer/employee relationship.