Professor Augustine Weekley
Law, Ethics & Corp. Governance
April 28, 2014
Employment at Will is a legal rule that developed in the nineteenth century, giving employers’ unfettered power to “dismiss their employees at will for good cause, for no cause, or even for cause morally wrong, without being thereby guilty of a legal wrong.” The economic philosophy of laissez-faire provided theoretical support for employment-at-will. Its legal underpinnings consisted mainly of “freedom of contract,” the idea that the individuals are free to choose how to dispose of what they own, including their labor, as ...view middle of the document...
Although at this writing only a fairly narrow slice of the U.S. workforce is unionized, collective bargaining agreements typically cut against employment-at-will, protecting workers from being fired except for “good cause” (Halbert, & Ingulli, 2012).
Keywords: employment at will, ethics, whistleblowers
Recently hired as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a midsize company preparing for an Initial Public Offering (IPO), I have discovered several personnel problems that require immediate attention and action! As a company we must ensure that we abide by the Corporate Governance: corporate roles, rights, and responsibilities. In contrast, employees must abide by company policies in respect to his/her rights and privacy. Each of the following points must be addressed individually and on a case by case scale. They are as followed:
Scenario (1). John posted a rant on his Facebook page in which he criticized the company’s most important customer. John is violating the company’s “social media” and “code of ethics” policies which called for grounds of termination. Of course, his employee rights consist of “freedom of speech,” but he has duty of loyalty to remain professional and comply with the company’s code of conduct policies. Before he was hired, John signed an employer/employee disclosure agreement (re: social media and code of ethics, etc.) stating that speaking against or about any customer(s) or client(s) associated with or doing business with the company in a negative manner via social media or publicly is absolutely unacceptable behavior. This form of behavior will not be tolerated. It is against the company’s policies, fair warnings have been given to John therefore, this could lead to being terminated. According to company records, this is John’s second offense in a year. He received a warning for his first offense which was filed in his employee records. John portrayed a negative image of the customer and it had a negative impact on our relationship with the client. Fair warnings were provided for his first offense therefore, John has been terminated.
Scenario (2). Jim sent an email to other salespeople protesting a change in commission schedules and bonuses and suggesting everyone boycott the next sales meeting. Once again, every employee has his/her right to exercise freedom of speech within the organization, but with limitations. Jim is attempting to persuade his fellow workers to join him in a protest and to boycott the next sales meeting. Jim should request a one on one meeting with higher management and discuss his concerns and/or objections of the commissions and bonuses. As an astute manager, they should compromise with Jim and any other disgruntle employees by negotiating the commission and bonuses numbers that’s more appeasing. No need to make thing worse by emailing other salespersons that may not even have a problem with the commission schedules and bonuses. He can not be fired because of the...