At-will employment is a common law rule which means that an employer may terminate anytime for any reason with or without cause or notice for any reason by law or no reason at all.
Too many Ohio employers rely on at will employment to terminate an employee without checking all of the facts and really taking it on a case by case basis.
For example, you can terminate an employee if they come into work with pink, blue, or any crazy colored hair but you can't for a social anxiety disorder, and it becomes a slippery slope if there are no performance issues. The employee that has the pink hair could hire an attorney and believe that she was fired because of her social anxiety disorder and not her hair. So, you have got to be very careful.
As an employer, you want to make sure that there are no illegal reasons for termination such as social anxiety disorders or any disabilities; things of that nature because if there is, then at-will employment no longer applies.
You can't fire somebody if they're serving on a jury or there's a police investigation or a public service that they're obligated to attend.
If you're under a contractual relationship with that employee, it's not at-will. Moreover, you don't need something in writing for a contract to exist.
Sometimes in certain contracts, there is a 90-day probationary period for employees, and it can imply a guaranteed continuing employment when the 90-days are over. So, avoid language that can imply conditions for continued employment in your handbook.
You really want to make sure that you're being careful with the language, what you're saying and how you're saying it, in your handbook and any disclaimers in any documentation for the employees.
If you want to learn more about at-will employment and how it can affect your business, contact us at Surety, and we can help you understand any gray areas and answer any questions you may have.