How It Protects the Employer
Upon hire, most employers offer the new employee the company handbook, where the employee signs an acknowledgment page that he or she has received the handbook; which contains the at-will employment clause.
Usually, employees go through an orientation period (1 to 3 months) to see how they fit with the company and how the company fits for them. Check with your local Department of Labor on orientation periods versus probationary periods…in some state, a “probationary" period is not legal; however, in all states an orientation period is legal.
During the orientation period or during any part of the employee/employer relationship, either party may terminate employment for any reason. This does allow for employers to get rid of difficult employees or ones that are detrimental to the company or simply don’t do their job—and they don’t have to provide the employee a reason.
The largest law an employer must follow if they do exercise the at-will employment clause is to follow their state’s guidelines on when the employee receives their final payroll check. In some states, like Nevada, if you terminate an employee with the at-will clause, you must have their final paycheck in hand to give them. In other states like New Mexico, you have three days from the date of the termination to provide the former employee with their final wages.
While it sounds great that as an employer you really don’t have to tell the employee why they are being terminated, throughout the years, state governments have revisited the at-will employment clause and there are some pros and cons to the clause depending upon your state.
Image Credit (Wikimedia Commons)