Staffing Kansas City

The Employment – At – Will Doctrine has Caveats Employers Should Know

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Kansas and Missouri both follow the Employment-At-Will doctrine. This says that an employer and an employee can end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. The doctrine sounds cut and dry, but it comes with a number of caveats. There can be no discrimination under civil rights laws (race, color, age, national origin, religion, ancestry, sex, or physical/mental disability). Additionally, no merit laws apply nor does the state’s limited public policy exception.

This lengthy list should highlight the immense subjectivity any one of these caveats could bring when following the Employment-at-Will doctrine as it relates to a dismissal on either side of the state line. An at-will termination will likely not be received well by the employee and without the proper documentation in place, an employer could be left in a vulnerable position if the terminated employee decides to litigate, especially on grounds of discrimination or retaliation.

The complaint could take a number of forms including retaliation for things such as age discrimination (over age 40), a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, sick leave taken under state law, allegations of illegal activity, worker’s comp, and/or activities to unionize, just to name a few.

Cases brought can result in demands for back pay and other compensatory damages. If these demands are not met, the matter may be escalated to a lawsuit and/or a complaint with a government agency such as a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a charge with the National Labor Relations Board documenting a violation of the terms and conditions of employment. A whistleblower complaint could also be made with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, regarding one of more than twenty federal statuses and a range of state agencies.

Filing will result in an investigation and the necessity to produce a lengthy paper trail in a brief time. For this reason, Staffing Kansas City strongly counsels a collaborative approach in these situations to document everything until the employee converts to the client’s payroll.

An at-will termination is extremely complicated and there are no shortcuts. It is important to do the work of performance-managing employees and document thoroughly throughout the process. Managers need to be up-to-speed on the complexities of at-will termination to effectively manage employees and to avoid unnecessary allegations of discrimination and harassment.

If a termination is called for, make sure you have the documentation to back it up. This includes giving fair warning about performance and conduct deficiencies and ensuring treatment is consistent among all employees with similar issues. Do not rely on at-will employment for an employee’s termination or your business might have to deal with very time-consuming and expensive repercussions.

This helpful article is brought to you by Staffing Kansas City, a full-service Kansas City employment agency that provides “Personnel Services with a Personal Touch”.