Throughout the world, most countries have chosen to allow employers to dismiss employees only for just cause. The employer must present evidence or an argument that supports the notion to dismiss the employee. This method ensures that an individual is fired for good cause and prevents misunderstanding between the employer and employee. In the United States, the basis for termination of employees differs greatly. Employment-at-will is a term that means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason or for no reason without occurring legal liability (Stone, 2007).
In the same respect, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. The purpose of this paper is to present scenarios that question the legality and exceptions of the employment-at-will doctrine and to give opinions on how to handle the scenarios. Negotiation strategies come from understanding the negotiation process and knowing how others consider and view it. The person negotiating should watch out for tricks another may use to convince he/she that they are wrong.
The best and most valued negotiation strategy is to first identify the “what’s wrong” problem and what the competition is requiring. For example, Tameka is a new employee at an accounting firm that is unable to learn and apply basic computer applications. The computer applications are mandatory to the job responsibilities outlined for Tameka. She makes remarks implying that she is not appreciated and is a good worker, regardless of her ability to complete the tasks. Skills, competence, and ability to perform a job are a necessity in the workplace.
In an accounting firm, a simple mistake can be detrimental. It appears that Tameka exaggerated her abilities and was intentionally misleading upon being hired which exhibits a lack of veracity. This observation alone provides management with just cause to dismiss her. However, there are steps that can be taken to properly assess this situation. This is where the negotiation process kicks in. The first step would be to train the employee. The reading indicates that Tameka has been given months of training, and she is still incapable of completing tasks.
I would be sure to document the training sessions that were offered to Tameka, and I would record her performance in each one. I would make Tameka sign off and clarify that she attended each training session to prevent verbal implications. After Tameka’s failed attempt at training, I would compose a formal document outlining my concerns about her performance. This document would serve as a warning for termination. I would give her two weeks to show improvement, even though she has already had the opportunity to do so. This document would reduce any risk or liability to the company.
If two weeks have passed and Tameka has shown no improvement, she will be terminated. Tameka may try to combat by using the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. This exception usually involves a discharged employee who contends that the employer has indicated in various ways that the employee has job security and will be treated fairly (Smith, 1985). When Tameka indicated that she was a good worker who felt she was not appreciated, it set the grounds for accusations of good faith and fair dealing.
Tameka would not be successful if she filed charges because she was not honest about her credentials. She led the employer to believe she was capable of completing tasks that she was treated fairly throughout the process by being given multiple chances to improve her performance. In scenario two, Tameka is frequently late to work and has major behavioral issues. As the supervisor, I tried to address the issues but Tameka retaliated that she is aware of the exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.
The first step to rectifying this situation is to review the employee code of conduct handbook. I would check to make sure the company’s late policy and zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior are duly noted. Then, I would give a copy to Tameka to read and sign clarifying that she has read and agrees to the rules. After she has signed the rules and regulations, I would have a talk with her to address the issues and warn her of the seriousness of the offense.
If the behavior continues, I will compose a formal document to serve as a final warning to Tameka before termination occurs. If the behavior continues, she will be terminated. Her termination would be based on her unwillingness to follow company rules, not respecting and treating her co-workers fairly, and not meeting performance expectations. Tameka may try to retaliate by claiming wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, which is another exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.
Cases, using the public policy exception, protects employees who are discharged for fulfilling a public obligation, protects workers who are fired for exercising statutory rights, employees who are dismissed for refusing to participate in illegal or unethical activity, and to protect individuals who are discharged for blowing the whistle on the activities of their employers or co-workers (Callahan, 1991). In Tameka’s case, wrongful discharge would not apply. She failed to adhere to company policies, and even after corrective coaching she still made no attempts at improvement.
Tameka’s signature on the rules and regulations sheet, the one-on-one session, and time given for improvement would reduce any liability on my part. The documentation I have for the situation would stand. In scenario three, Tameka takes off from work without management consent to observe a religious holiday. Coincidentally, the day occurs during a busy period for the company. Prior to the holiday, management stated that no one could take off without consent. Tameka encourages her co-workers to organize and form a labor union for protection. In this scenario, it would be unlawful to dismiss Tameka.
However, I would compose a formal document to Tameka expressing the importance of calling in and letting management know if she will not be able to make work. I would reassure her that the company does not discriminate against employees regardless of their religious affiliation. I would send out a correspondence to all employees restating what I told Tameka to be sure everyone has an understanding of our non-discriminatory policy, and our appreciation toward calling in to work to make sure all shifts will be covered. Tameka’s protection lies in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically forbids discrimination on the basis of religion for employment purposes, except when the employer is a religious organization , or when religion is a bona fide occupational qualification (Adams, 2001). Tameka’s observance of the religious holiday is covered under this act. I could do nothing if Tameka and her co-workers wanted to form a labor union. The National Labors Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of employees to form or join a union, and prohibits employers from interfering, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of their rights to organize (Hollo, 2008).
In the last scenario, Tameka’s direct supervisor continuously asks her out on dates. She was informed during orientation of the company policy that prevents employees from dating their supervisor. Despite this, Tameka and her supervisor enter into a consensual relationship. The reading refers to the relationship as “consensual” which means both parties agreed to the relationship. Tameka’s job was not threatened in any way if she did not choose to have the relationship with the supervisor. Equally, the supervisor was not coerced into the relationship in any way.
I would interview both employees to get a detailed account of the relationship and have them both sign and date it. This would reduce any liability and risk on my part. Both parties knew it was wrong, but they still continued the relationship. If both parties agree to end the relationship, I would have them sign a document stating that the relationship will be ended or termination will apply. Tameka and the supervisor could argue under the exception of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. They may feel it is unfair that they have to end their relationship or that they were not knowledgeable.
However, both parties had full knowledge of company policy. Supervisors generally have more job security. It is likely the supervisor could argue his termination would counteract the company’s implication of good faith in him. Regardless, all arguments made by Tameka and the supervisor would fail to prove a legit point. The company is showing enough good faith, just by allowing them the opportunity to rectify the situation. In conclusion, exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine can be controversial. It is important to always document incidents and situations, in case it is needed for protection in a lawsuit.
Both employees and employers have allegiance to each other, and when one or both parties violates that allegiance, termination is often the result. Prevention of termination and other work related issues is directly related to the employee and employers understanding of company rules and regulations. The strategic factor is based on identifying an organization’s key stakeholders. It is called the strategic factor because the strategies and measures developed via it are based on the factors relevant to an organization’s key stakeholder’s.
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