Sample Ethics Critical Thinking Paper on The Doctrine of Employment-At-Will

The Doctrine of Employment-At-Will

            In most cases, employment at will refers to a doctrine that most of the business entrepreneurs embrace. The principle states that the employer or an employee has a right to dismiss his/her work relationship at any time without giving or being given a notice and incurring any liability (Sentell and Robbins, 2008). Employers members in the United States presume employment at will to be at-will, contrary to what most of the countries across the globe practice. They allow employers to terminate work relationship only for a cause. However, an exception to this doctrine exists in Montana, which requires employers to terminate workers relationship after the probation period of six months. Consequently, employers have no right to fire individual employees with legal employment agreement as well as labor union contracts under employment at will doctrine. In fact, companies are not required to dismiss individuals who exercise all kinds of rights under public policy, especially when filing workers compensation claims. Companies do negotiate with employees when entering into an agreement to ensure that all recruited members possess high-level satisfaction. The cause for termination may arise in the case of poor performance or all sorts of misconducts though the contract may outline situations in which termination may exist.

The Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding Employee and Consumer Privacy

The employers who practice and adopt employment-at-will assume that policies are ethical. Nevertheless, it does not mean that all cases that are legally permissible under the doctrine are ethical. Sometimes employers may ethically adopt certain policies that allow them to avoid the legal burden of establishing the staunch reason towards employee dismissal. The employers must uphold the ethical standards and ensure that they exercise their duties in line with legal dismissal rights. The three basic ethical boundaries that guide every employer when exercising their legal rights under employment at will include employers should desist from firing employees for any reason that is not accepted by the state, federal, or those that are recognized by the judicial exceptions to the doctrine regardless of the status of an employee. For example, the case of a supervisor who seeks approval to fire his/her secretary for not having prepared false expense report for her boss does not qualify for employment at will doctrine. It is clearly indicated under the doctrine of employment at will that no one should exercise legal duties for personal benefits (Roehling, 2003).

It is recommended that whenever employers want to terminate the employment relationship, it is crucial for them to be certain and have sufficient evidence for the cause of dismissal if required by legal officials. John, for example, who posts a rant on his Facebook page to criticize the company’s customer, can be dismissed under employment at will doctrine regarding his misconduct that violates the company’s reputation. Consequently, under the rules and regulations that govern every institution, no person should use an organization’s asset for personal benefit. Thus, what Bill did by using BlackBerry issued by the company to run his own business was unethical, and he would be dismissed under employment at will doctrine. The provisions of such evidence that violate the legal requirement stand to defend any discrimination that may exist, and thus reduces the liabilities on the breach of contract.

It is evident that Maryland employment at will is highly practiced by employers of different states in many situations. A case where a member of Bowie State University Police Department (Tyson Lawson) claimed of his arrest being unconstitutional, saying that he was not made aware. By objecting his arrest, he was dismissed to have violated the chain of command by reporting his arrest claiming that Lawson tried to change the original custom and culture of the department for his personal beliefs on how the arrest was conducted. The administrative judge objected Lawson’s petition on his arrest though Maryland’s high court did not agree with the administrative judge, quoting, “The employee needs not “possess a purely altruistic motive for the disclosure.” Mr. Lawson’s denial to a wrongful arrest met the interest of public welfare, and the case is seen as a whistleblower. Even though the university police department terminated Lawson’s employment relationship, the rule used in employment at will was inappropriate Lawson v. Bowie, 603 So.2d 356, 361 (Hicks, 2008).

The Common Law Exceptions towards Employment at Will Doctrine

Public policy is one of the exceptions that are widely covered under common law to protect employees from adverse violation by employers, though in certain cases, the court fails to recognize a separate public policy. For all States that recognize public policy, exceptions are only accepted in cases where it is well defined in the constitutions. Often, the courts prohibit dismissal of employees whenever they refuse to engage in illegal conduct for personal gain. For example, the case of Anna whose boss wants to fire her on the ground of being absent upon denied leave request for jury duty. All sorts of a fraudulent act are not acceptable and meet employment at will doctrine. However, employees are not right to contest their dismissal based on personal thought that their character is in agreement with the law. The courts will not ascertain the reliability of their dismissal of employees if the statutory law and the employment contract grant them rights over termination.

The law also forbids any form of constructive discharge. It usually involves forcing an individual to either resigns or demoted with an ill intention of preoccupying his or her job position. Such constructive discharges are unacceptable under the at-will doctrine. Even though employers have a right to employment at will to discharge employees at any time without any notice, termination of work relationship may not be applicable when a person pursues publicity that is recognized under employment rights and obligation (Dunford and Devine, 1998). Employers, therefore, can be held responsible and liable for the wrongful act. The public policies exist in two major categories. The first category is the dismissal of an employee upon fulfilling a legal obligation or pursuing a right that favors public interests underlined within the constitutions or case laws. If employers terminate the employment relationship with an employee on refusal to have sexual relations, he or she would be liable. The claim is based on the federal policies that forbid sexual harassment. Consequently, if an employee is dismissed for having reported any suspicious actions that are fraudulent, he or she would be liable for protecting the whistleblower on the ground of public policy. Other misconducts are related to violation of human rights.

The actions on jurisdictions hold that public policy fully lies in tort rather than contract. All employers are responsible for all the damages caused to employees by employment termination. If the employers breach the existing contract during termination, the employee can recover all the incurred losses and any other damages caused by infringement of their rights. The contract remedies may also provide grants for emotional distress, pain or suffering and punitive damages, which may warn employers from terminating employment relationship with employees. The best vindication to public policy tort only exists when dismissal is in good faith but if the employer affirms termination, he or she must build a good cause that supports the action. The operation manager of the company must avoid both written and verbal assurances to employees when entering into an employment contract. Nevertheless, when such information is communicated, especially through writing, a disclaimer must be clarified that it would not alter with employment at will doctrine. The organization should also avoid unwritten policies except for limited cases where employees could be fired for good cause.


Dunford, B. B., & Devine, D. J. (1998). Employment at-will and employee discharge: A justice perspective on legal action following termination. Personnel Psychology, 51(4), 903-934.

Hicks, M. J. (2008). Estimating wal-mart’s impacts in maryland: A test of identification strategies and endogeneity tests. Eastern Economic Journal, 34(1), 56-73.

Roehling, M. V. (2003). The employment at-will doctrine: Second level ethical issues and analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 47(2), 115.

Sentell, E., & Robbins, R. (2008). EMPLOYMENT AT-WILL. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 11(1), 1-15.