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Employment-at-will Case Study: Chief Operating Officer View

Imagine you are a recently-hired Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a midsize company preparing for an Initial Public Offering (IPO). You quickly discover multiple personnel problems that require your immediate attention. 1. John posted a rant on his Facebook page in which he criticized the company's most important customer. 2. Ellen started a blog to protest the CEO's bonus, noting that no one below director has gotten a raise in two (2) years and portraying her bosses as "know-nothings" and "out-of-touch" 3. Bill has been using his company-issued BlackBerry to run his own business on the side. 4. After being disciplined for criticizing a customer in an email (sent from his personal email account on a company computer), Joe threatens to sue the company for invasion of privacy. 5. One of the department supervisors requests your approval to fire his secretary for insubordination. Since the secretary has always received glowing reviews, you call her into your office and determine that she has refused to prepare false expense reports for her boss. 6. Anna's boss refused to sign her leave request for jury duty and now wants to fire her for being absent without permission.
As an astute manager, you will need to analyze the employment-at-will doctrine and determine what, if any, exceptions and liabilities exist before taking any action. As you proceed with your investigation, you discover the company has no whistleblower policy.
Write a four to five (4-5) page paper in which you: 1. Summarize the employment-at-will doctrine discussed in the text and then evaluate three (3) of the six (6) scenarios described by determining: a. Whether you can legally fire the employee; include an assessment of any pertinent exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. b. The primary action(s) that you should take to limit liability and impact on operations; specify the ethical theory that best supports your decision. 2. Use at least three (3) quality resources in this assignment.

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Employment-at-will

The employment-at-will doctrine refers to the presupposition that employment is for an indefinite time. It also presumes that employment may be terminated either by the employee or the employer. According to Bennett-Alexander and Hartman (2009, p. 24) employment-at-will is "an employment relationship where there is no contractual obligation to remain in the relationship; either party may terminate the relationship at any time, for any reason, as long as the reason is not prohibited by law, such as for discriminatory purposes". Historically, courts have taken this approach when interpreting the relationship between employer and employee. However, the bargaining power between employers and employees is somewhat unequal, it leaves critics of the employment-at-will doctrine to infer that the results of this doctrine is harsh and has therefore sought the assistance of unions who act as representatives of the employees in an attempt to make the bargaining power more equal. Unions are able to make ultimatums and demand good faith, job security and other benefits on the part of the employer. There are exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. Clarkson et al (2006) states that many employees, especially those who deals with third parties are customarily regarded as agents of an employer, this concept is remarkably relevant to employment framework. There are exceptions to the employment-at-will principle. Under this doctrine, as previously mentioned, an employer or the employee may terminate the relationship. The employer may hire or fire an employee at will, unless doing so would violate the terms of the contract (Clarkson, et al, 2006). The effects of employment-at-will dogma can be harsh on employees; therefore the courts have shaped out several exceptions based on contract theory, tort theory, and public policy (Clarkson, et al, 2006). The exception based on contract theory conjectures that an implied contract exists between and employer and an employee. In the event that an employee is fired outside the terms of the implied contract, the employee may win in an action for breach of contract - even though there is no written contract. Under the exception based on tort theory some employment termination may fall under the ...

Solution Summary

Imagine you are a recently hired Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a midsize company preparing for an Initial Public Offering (IPO). You quickly discover multiple personnel problems that require your immediate attention.

1. John posted a rant on his Facebook page in which he criticized the company's most important customer.
2. Ellen started a blog to protest the CEO's bonus, noting that no one below director has gotten a raise in two (2) years and portraying her bosses as "know-nothings" and "out-of-touch"
3. Bill has been using his company-issued BlackBerry to run his own business on the side.
4. After being disciplined for criticizing a customer in an email (sent from his personal email account on a company computer), Joe threatens to sue the company for invasion of privacy.
5. One of the department supervisors requests your approval to fire his secretary for insubordination. Since the secretary has always received glowing reviews, you call her into your office and determine that she has refused to prepare false expense reports for her boss.
6. Anna's boss refused to sign her leave request for jury duty and now wants to fire her for being absent without permission.


As an astute manager, you will need to analyze the employment-at-will doctrine and determine what, if any, exceptions and liabilities exist before taking any action. As you proceed with your investigation, you discover the company has no whistleblower policy.
Write a four to five (4-5) page paper in which you:

1. Summarize the employment-at-will doctrine discussed in the text and then evaluate three (3) of the six (6) scenarios described by determining: a. Whether you can legally fire the employee; include an assessment of any pertinent exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. b. The primary action(s) that you should take to limit liability and impact on operations; specify the ethical theory that best supports your decision.

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