Is ‘at-will’ employment good or bad?

As an Ohio employer, you probably know that the state considers employees who are working without a contract or who aren’t under a collective bargaining agreement to be “at-will” employees. That means that you can essentially fire them for almost any reason that isn’t discriminatory. In turn, the employees don’t owe you any particular duty to remain on the job — which means they can decide to simply quit for any reason.

Sounds good, right? In some respects, it is. Neither employees nor their employers are locked into a working relationship.

However, not everything about at-will employment is beneficial for employers. Sometimes, having a contract with an employee is actually a far wiser course of action. Consider this:

  1. You have no claim to your employee’s loyalty without a contract. When you don’t offer your employees some semblance of security, why should they feel any sense of allegiance to you? A key employee could walk off the job at a critical moment, and you have no recourse.
  2. At-will employment encourages a “pleaser” mentality. That means your employees may be too worried about provoking your anger to level with you about important issues.
  3. At-will employees may stifle their creativity. In many types of businesses, creativity can be key to your survival. Why should an employee take any creative risks if failing could mean being fired?
  4. Without contracts, you create a “me first” mentality. If your company goes through a rough patch, your employees may bail out on you as quickly as possible.

For some employers, at-will employees do make sense — but no two companies or industries are exactly alike. If your company needs to hold on to talent when they see it, a contractual agreement may be smarter.

The best way to avoid a contract dispute isn’t just to eschew contracts altogether. A well-drafted contract can often prevent them from starting.

Categories: Business Litigation