Blue Collar Workers
Introduction: According to an article by Lawrence Peikes writing in HR Magazine (2004), both employees and employers must understand their respective responsibilities and rights in the workplace. An area in which the law is evolving involves an employer’s right to fire an employee at-will. Many companies follow the employment-at-will doctrine, which means an employer, at least in theory, has the right to fire an employee at any time and for any reason, with or without advanced notification and with or without any form of severance pay. Both State and federal laws define instances in which an employee’s firing is wrongful and actionable. For example, an employer cannot terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee on the basis of the employee’s race, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, or for engaging in union related activities. The law considers such actions as discriminatory and firing would be considered actionable under the legal doctrine of wrongful termination.
Using the employment-at-will doctrine as the basis for terminating any employee, including a blue collar worker, carries with it specific legal risks. The terminated employee may sue, and if there is merit to their claim that they were the victim of some form of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, the terminated worker may have a strong case against his or her former employer. In this situation, it might be safer and less expensive for a company to make a cash settlement with the former employee rather than risk a trial.
In this article, Peikes explains that the commitments made to one at-will employee that her husband’s possible employment by a competitor would not adversely affect her employment were sufficiently clear to be binding on her employer. The Connecticut Supreme Court affirming an $850,000 jury verdict. The Court determined that the employee’s at-will employment status was modified when the employe…