Employment at Will An Analysis of Morality Introduction of Thoughts Regarding Employment at Will Patricia Werhane and Tara Rajin The Prosecution

According to Patricia Werhane and Tara Rajin (113), employment at will (EAW) is a common-law principle which states that in the case of an absence of contract or law, the employer has the right to hire, promote, demote, and fire whomever and whenever. In a manner of speaking, it is stated that the employee whom is employed at such principle has no rights to whatsoever, since he or she is at the mercy of the employer.

It is also stated that the employer may hire, promote, demote, and fire may terminate his or her employees regardless of reason. Some employers may fire employees because they have good reasons to do so, such as poor performance or destructive behavior, but when it comes to employment at will, the employer may fire the employee even if the employee is doing well.

Employment at will states that the employer may fire the employee even if he or she does not have good reasons, simply because the employee was employed at will, and is not protected by union agreement, legal statute, public policy, or contract. Apart from these, the employer may also fire for reasons that may even be considered morally wrong.

It is stated that every individual has the right to due process however, when it comes to EAW, this right is not considered. When one speaks of due process, it refers to the means or the process which enables an individual to appeal a certain decision in order to attain an explanation for such action. The due process also gives the individual the right to argue against said action. If one has a right to due process, this entails that one has a right to a trial, a hearing, or perhaps a grievance procedure. The due process is a demand for fairness and rationality, which is why it is necessary to hear the sides of both parties before the final decision.

As seen in the aforementioned discussion regarding due process, it is a vital method in order to assure that everyone is treated fairly and they get what they deserve however, when it comes to EAW, there is no due process, and whether one does not deserve to be demoted or fired does not matter.

There have been plenty of cases wherein employees have been fired because of the EAW around 67 of the individuals whom have decided to appeal were favored by the court. However, most of these cases were won not because the court found the principle of EAW at fault, but because there were some form of breach of contract, such as when there are company rules which may be conflicting with the principle of EAW.

It is, of course, relevant to mention that before such events, the due process was referred to as merely legal and philosophical nonsense (Werhane and Rajin 114). Most employers felt that they had every right to remove their employees should they feel that they need or want to. However, there have been significant developments regarding the removal of EAW. A lot of courts find it a breach of contract to remove an employee when there is no justifiable cause, even if the contract is merely verbal.

It is necessary to state, however, that despite such developments regarding due process, many employees still find themselves terminated from their jobs without sufficient reason. Downsizing, mergers and reconstruction of organizations often result in fired employees for no acceptable reason also, most of them were not able to argue against the decision.

There is also the problem regarding enforcing the due process on private organizations. Unlike political and public organizations, private organizations are not subject to the same restrictions. There are a lot of arguments regarding enforcing such restrictions amongst private organizations for doing such would defeat the idea of free enterprise and  freedom of contract.

Richard Epstein The Defense
There is no denying the fact that there are a lot of arguments regarding the implementation of the principle of employment at will. Most individuals (particularly those whom are at the receiving end of problems) feel that it is necessary to discontinue the utilization of such principle. While it is argued that the employment at will principle is unjust to the employee, there are also several arguments that such principle is fair and appropriate, as well as mutually beneficial to both the employee and the employer.

According to Richard Epstein (122), the employment at will principle encourages freedom. Freedom from a contract is referred to as an individual liberty, and it is likened to the various types of freedom that individuals are supposed to have, such as freedom to speak ones mind, freedom to choose whom one wants to marry, or freedom to choose which religion and beliefs to partake in.

Hence, to remove the principle of employment at will is to breach the freedom of the involved individuals. Since it is argued that breaching freedom is immoral, and removing the employment at will is a breach of freedom, it could be said that removing the employment at will principle is also immoral. It is argued that individuals need to be able to make their own decisions, and abridging the economic freedom of individuals by controlling the employment at will principle would be unjust.

In fact, the employment at will not only benefits the employer, but the employee as well, because the employee may be able to leave his or her job without the tedious paperwork and so on. If there is a limitation regarding employment at will, it would be limiting the power of the employee to be the guide of his own actions. Since the individual is a guide of his own actions, it can also be said that even though he may be fired any time, he still has the choice to quit anytime.

Another fact in the defense of employment at will is that it is necessary to acknowledge that human beings are capable of governing their lives therefore, they enter the contract of employment at will with the proper understanding of what they are getting themselves into. It would be absurd to claim that the employee does not know what he will be undertaking, and it is safe to say that since the employee has accepted the terms of employment at will, he and his employer has come to some form of agreement which they both find mutually beneficial.

Also, since the employment at will does not legally bind the employee to his or her employer, he or she is free to pursue other jobs without the fear of being reprimanded. Other organizations who do not utilize employment at will forbid their employees to work on other job this kind of system discourages the employee from finding better opportunities. For example, if the employee finds that the job is not what he or she expects it to be, then he or she is free to pursue another that may be of benefit to him or her. This way both the employer and the employee benefit from the employment at will the employer is not stuck with an individual whom is not fully dedicated to his or her job and at the same time, the employee is not stuck on a job that he or she does not want.

It is stated that there must be some form of misunderstanding regarding the function and the benefits of employment at will it is viewed negatively and is assumed to be for the mere benefit of the employer. Employment at will should not be judged on the cases when it caused rather unfortunate events, but on the events when it provided sensible solutions to various labor problems.

It is of course, commonly agreed upon, that to wrongfully terminate or discharge ones employees is immoral however, such events occur because of the misuse of the principle of employment at will. While there is certainly a lot of negative feedback regarding the principle, this does not necessarily mean that the principle itself is not appropriate in the business setting.

Employment at will is not the problem per se, but the human factor. As discussed in the aforementioned data, employment at will has its own benefits however, if the employee and his employer abuses such benefits, then there is, indeed, a problem. More often than not, employees and their employees alike abuse the benefits of the principle, creating problems which eventually lead to either or both of the parties feeling cheated off their rights. The problem should not be the principle in fact, instead of rashly stating the principle to be immoral, there should be an inquiry as to how such abuses of the principle may be controlled.

The Bottom-line Is the EAW Immoral
In analysis of the aforementioned data, it could be said that both sides of the pro-EAW and anti-EAW make sense in some way. To other individuals, the employment at will principle may seem to be unjust and immoral, for it gives the employer absolute control of whom he or she will be firing or not, regardless of whatever reason he or she has. Apart from this, the employee may also leave the organization or the company without appropriate notice to the management which may lead to problems and costs.

However, despite this argument, it cannot be denied that such problems are not really the cause of the employment at will principle. The principle itself is not immoral however, those who choose to abuse the principle for their personal gains rather than for the mutual benefit of employee and employer alike. As seen in Epsteins defense of the employment at will principle, employment at will can produce benefits for the employee and the employer, for it gives equal parties the right to be able to govern their own lives and not be controlled by other individuals or by some form of system.

Instead of focusing on removing the principle of employment at will amongst private organizations, the focus should be on how to make it work for everyone whom is involved. It is necessary to state that abuse can happen, no matter what kind of principle is applied, and just because EAW is not implemented does not necessarily mean that the employee and the employer may not abuse their positions. If one looks closely at the principle of employment at will, one may be able to understand that its purpose is not for the employer (or the employee) to abuse its uses.

However, since employment at will has the potential to be abused, what should be done is to find means to minimize abuse and ensure that both parties are really getting the real benefits of being in the contract of employment at will. Apart from this, it is necessary to point out that it is impossible that employment at will causes merely negative feedback, for if that were the case, how would one explain the fact that it is popularly used within various organizations Again, it all boils down to the fact that it has benefits and its disadvantages are the repercussions of mismanagement and abuse.

In an overall summary, it could be said that employment at will is not immoral it does not merely benefit the employer, but the employee as well, for it acknowledges their capacity and right to make their own decisions and govern their future. Since both parties are not in a contract which restricts their movement, they are able to pursue what they think would be for the improvement of the organization and for their individual futures.


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