Exceptions to At-will employment
At-will employment is a contract at will between employer and employee by which either party terminates employment without assigning any reason or with reason. There is no advance notice from either side. This has been the recognized law in the United States for more than a century. This means an employee is free to leave the job at any time and employer can discharge the employee at any time without notice.
Of late, this at-will rule has been qualified with several exceptions so as to protect employees against discharge under certain situations. Public employee, employees with a contract of employment for a fixed period, and workers with trade union generally do not come under the scope of the at-will rule. It was from the 1970s, the at-will doctrine was being subjected to exceptions by the courts in various states for the reason of wrongful discharge without a valid cause recognized in common law backed by public policy, implied contract, and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing which are causes of action under contract law and tort law (Bagley & Diane.W, 2013). Under the public exception, employer is prohibited from terminating the employee if the termination is in violation of public policy.
This exception is being followed in 39 states. Ten states do not recognize it but three of them have incorporated the public policy prohibition in their statutes. An instance public policy violation is discharge from employment due to employee’s refusal to carry out an unlawful act insisted by the employer etc. Secondly, if there is an implied contract inferred from the conduct of the parties or from the history of employment, then it is an exception to the at-will employment doctrine. Thirdly, implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing exception represents the termination of employment by the employer without just cause such as termination in spite of the employees’ long period of service without any adverse record and similar good credentials (Bagley & Diane.W, 2013). Now, the exceptions are part of the several statutes as part of Civil Rights, two of which are selected for review, namely Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1967 (ADEA) and American Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA) as part of Civil Rights legislation.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1967 (ADEA)
This act protects persons of age forty years and above from discrimination in employment for the reason of age by the employer both public and private provided there are twenty or employees employed by them. Public employer includes Federal, State and Local Governments. Section 4 (a) (1) makes it unlawful for an employer to cite an individual’s age for failure or refusal to hire or discriminate against an employee in any other manner such as in respect of salary, privileges , terms and conditions. Section 4 (a) (2) prohibits limiting, segregating or classifying an employee by reason of his age that would result in his deprivation of opportunities of employment or his status as an …