How can my company ensure that its policy documents have not altered the at-will nature of employment?

Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor

Employers should include disclaimers throughout its policy documents, including on-boarding paperwork, policy manuals and periodic circulations, reminding employees without express or implied contracts that they are retained at-will and that the policy documents are not intended to create a contract. Employers should also review its policy documents to ensure the language used by the author of those documents did not create any obligations on the part of the employer. Words like "will" or "must" may inadvertently impose requirements on the employer that it may not be able to fulfill. Most importantly, employers should review its policy documents to ensure that no promises are made regarding employment tenure ("you will be retained for at least one year") or grounds for termination ("employees may only be discharged for gross misconduct"). Such language unnecessarily limits the employer's ability to terminate employees and exposes the company to costly legal disputes.