“Both the employee and the employer are free to unilaterally terminate the relationship at any time and for any legally permissible reason, or for no reason at all” (Cihon & Castagnera, 2019, p. 19). Therefore, at-will employment describes any working relationships that have no time specifications and can be terminated by any side without a just cause.
For the employer, the benefits of at-will employment are relatively straightforward. At-will employment guarantees more flexibility, speed, and efficiency for the employer. If needed, employees can be replaced quickly without a prolonged bureaucratic process, and businesses can adapt to changing external and internal circumstances quicker.
The benefits of at-will employment for employees seem to be more limited. Employees can also enjoy higher levels of flexibility, yet their motivation regarding it is more questionable. Also, in theory, at-will employment should make the job markets more efficient, making it easier for people to find and lose jobs, which can partially be viewed as a benefit for employees.
Some laws limit at-will employment features by providing protection to some groups of employees based on their characteristics and activities. For instance, due to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employees can not be fired for filing safety complaints (Cihon & Castagnera, 2019). The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) works based on the same principles – employees can not be fired for participation in protected concerted activities. These activities include “rights to join together to improve wages and working conditions, with or without a union” (National Labor Relations Board, n.d.).
Moreover, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits any discrimination based on sex, religion, color, race, and national origin. Since June 15, 2020, based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Title VII also protects from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, n.d.). Finally, there is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) that supports and protects older workers.
The Balance of Benefits
While at-will employment grants both parties additional flexibility in their relationships, it favors the employer more. The reason is that out of two sides, the employee is less interested in ending their employment abruptly due to the fact that for the employee, their job is their primary source of income. On average, any employee will be more interested in stability and predictability, with the exception of highly-skilled high-net-worth individuals, who might have the privilege to choose between the best employment options carefully. At the same time, firing one employee may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things for the employer. The employer may be interested in the abrupt replacement of one employee by another if that proves to be more effective or beneficial for the employer.
I would like to be hired as an employee with a contract. The reason for that is the difference in the levels of employee protection and guarantees that were mentioned earlier. For me, a contract represents a better social package, stability, and predictability in my relationships with the employer and my financial situation.
Cihon, P. J., & Castagnera, J. O. (2019). Employment and labor law (10th Edition). Cengage Learning US.
National Labor Relations Board. (n.d.). Employee rights. Web.
U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Web.