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Law and Ethics of At-Will Employment - Research Paper Example

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Abstract The relationship between the employee and employer has been witnessing significant changes in the recent past. The business environment arising out of economic uncertainty has led to frequent acquisitions, downsizing and consolidations. This has resulted in erosion of the customary contract where job security for employees is traded against organization loyalty (Stone 2004)…
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Law and Ethics of At-Will Employment
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Download file to see previous pages We will deep-dive into the law and evaluate the ethical implications of the law. Introduction to the law The at-will-employment law in USA states that the contract of employment between an employer and employee can be terminated by either of the two parties at any point of time for any specific reason. This implies that the employee can resign from the job without any contractual obligations to the employer and the employer can separate the employee without any obligations post the separation. Because of the nature of the contract, its duration is a moment and it is renewed from every moment to moment. History The law of at-will-employment finds its beginning in the late nineteenth century. Untill that time, most of the workers in US were employed in the agricultural sector and were appointed for particular harvesting season. During that time, the workers were subjected to work for a particular master for the entire season. Workers who leave their jobs before the end of the term will have to forgo their wages for the period that they worked. Although there was no specified term for the duration of contract, the same will be implied by the courts. This was termed as the entire-contract doctrine. The entire-contract doctrine led to high income insecurity amongst the unskilled workers. With the advancement of technology and growth of production in masses and manufacturing plants, majority of the workers shifted from agricultural sector to the industrial sector. Workers in this sector were hired for the indefinite period and therefore not subjected to the entire-contract doctrine. From 1880s, some of the courts started to view the employment contract as a contract that can be terminated by any of the party at any given point of time and any reason. This evolved as the at-will-employment law and became prominent in many states. Trends in At-will-employment doctrine The at-will-employment doctrine was favorable for the laborers as it removed the monetary insecurity arising out of the entire-contract term. It meant that the workers were paid for the time they worked even if they quit or were separated. Because of the advantage to the workers and new theories in the field of human resource management, organization started to reorganize their workforce into ‘internal labor markets’ (Doeringer & Piore, 1971). According to this arrangement, the workforce was organized in the form of hierarchical levels where significant experience and training at a particular level provided the way for the level up. Organizations started to design policies centered on the employees so that they stay with the firm for a long duration. Employees were given advantages of fixed promotion cycles along with increasing pay. During the large part of twentieth century, at-will-employment along with the concept of ‘internal labor markets’ was the norm. Workers were further benefited from the presence of unions that were responsible for negotiation of contracts and contract terms. Beginning in the 1970s, many state courts started to impose restrictions on the employers regarding their right to lay-off employees. The courts started to impose tort liabilities on firms that were proved of making unjustified dismissals. Besides this, courts also started to incorporate tenets of good faith and fairness as a part of the employment co ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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