Employment Law


Table of Contents

  1. AT WILL EMPLOYMENT
  2. DISCHARGE FOR CAUSE ONLY
  3. BINDING ARBITRATION
  4. EMPLOYER TIPS
  5. EMPLOYEE TIPS

AT WILL EMPLOYMENT

An at will employee can be discharged without cause at anytime. Under Michigan law, absent an agreement to the contrary, employees are deemed to be employees at will. This means that employees are free to change jobs or terminate their employment at anytime. Likewise, an employer is free to discharge the employee for any reason that does not violate established law or public policy.

One of the leading cases in Michigan concerning at will employment is the case of Touissant v Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan 408 Mich 579 (1980). This case brought attention to wrongful discharge lawsuits by merely restating existing law.

There may be exceptions to the rules set forth above. If you have an employment question it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to determine your rights under the law.

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Michigan contact AAAA Legal Center by Phone or E-Mail

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DISCHARGE FOR CAUSE ONLY

Certain employment agreements have specific provisions that provide that employees can only be discharged for good cause. The good cause provision is usually contained in a written contract.

A good example of this type of contract is a professional athletes contract. The employer is bound to employ the athlete for a certain period of time at a certain rate of compensation. The employee is bound to work for this employer so long as the employer fulfills the promises made in their agreement. The employer cannot discharge the athlete unless the employer has good cause to do so.

Most collective bargaining agreements contain clauses providing that employees can only be discharged for good cause. In many instances this protection is not afforded to probationary employees.

If an employee is wrongfully terminated under Michigan law an the employment contract provides for discharge for cause only then an employee can sue for wrongful termination.

If an employee who is under contract for a certain term leaves his employment without good cause the employer may sue the employer. In fact the employer may be able to obtain a court order preventing the employee from working with another employer during their agreed upon contract term.

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Michigan contact AAAA Legal Center by Phone or E-Mail

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BINDING ARBITRATION

Rather than risk a jury trial in the event of a dispute employer's may require that employees in Michigan pursue their wrongful discharge cases in binding arbitration rather than in court.

There is always a risk that a court may find that arbitration clauses are unenforceable for a variety of reasons. Most recently Michigan courts have refused to enforce certain binding arbitration clauses because the court found that the time to file for arbitration was too short. In other cases found on our New Law page the courts have ruled both for and against different arbitration provisions prohibiting employees from filing civil rights cases in court.

Some employers may want to consider arbitration as a way of avoiding more costly jury trials. Generally, arbitration proceedings conclude much more quickly and inexpensively than a jury trial.

Employers as well as employees will want to consult with an experienced attorney whenever the question of arbitration arises. It would appear that for the present arbitration clauses may be binding on certain employees who properly agree to the same in binding agreements so long as the terms of the agreement including the length of time to request arbitration are deemed to be reasonable.

If you have a question regarding a legal matter in the state of
Michigan contact AAAA Legal Center by Phone or E-Mail

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EMPLOYER TIPS

1. Each employer no matter how large or small should carefully review their policies and procedures regarding employment at will and other employment issues. A cohesive plan should be developed and instituted to limit potential exposure to wrongful discharge and other related suits such as race, age and sexual discrimination.

2. All employment documents should be carefully reviewed by an experienced attorney. Often times a wrongful discharge suit can be laid to rest because the employer’s documents clearly indicate that the employee was an employee at will. The starting point is your employment application. The review should include handbooks, written policies and all other employment related documentation

3. Binding arbitration of intentional personal injury and wrongful death claims should be considered.

4. Procedures should be carefully reviewed. Caution should be exercised when discussing employment terms. It is further prudent to adopt written employment policies which employees sign, therefore, acknowledging their receipt and understanding of the same.

5. Employees should be afforded an opportunity to voice their concerns over workplace conditions of concern to them.

6. Company policy should unequivocally indicate that the company will not tolerate discrimination in the workplace. A procedure should be implemented to allow and encourage employees to make complaints and have them investigated by the employer.

An employer may be able to avoid a lawsuit or successfully defend one by taking corrective action upon first notice of a problem such as co-worker discrimination or sexual harassment. The fact that an employer encourages the reporting of these acts shows the employer’s disdain for these actions and lack of involvement in the same.

7. An experienced attorney should be consulted to review existing procedures and documents and to formulate and implement a plan for the future.

If you have a question regarding a legal matter in the state of
Michigan contact AAAA Legal Center by Phone or E-Mail

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EMPLOYEE TIPS

1. If you are an employee at will your employer has the upper hand. The employer can terminate your employment for any arbitrary reason whether real or imagined so long as the employer does not violate certain laws or public policy in doing so. If you are having problems at work you should consult with an experienced attorney to determine if your rights are being violated.

2. An attorney can review the factual situation presented and advise you as to your rights. Even though you are an employee at will Federal Law and Michigan Law may afford you certain protections from arbitrary discharge. Many of these protections are found in statutory law and deal with acts of discrimination.

3. Michigan has an excellent Civil Rights Law known as The Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act which may be of interest to you.

4. When changing employment beware of oral promises that may not be enforceable. Often times there are misunderstandings when oral job offers are made. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney before relying on promises that may not be enforceable in a court of law.

5. Often times promises are made to encourage a prospective employee to take a new position in a different area. If these promises are not kept the employee can be devastated. An employee would hate to move long distances only to be told that the position no longer exists or that the employee is being discharged after only a short time on the job.

6. Sometimes employees will adopt or change important policies during your employment. You should consult with an experienced attorney regarding these matters as soon as possible to determine your rights.

7. If an employer promises that you will only be discharged for good cause the promise should be in writing. You should consult with an experienced attorney regarding these promises.

8. If you are being hired to a union position determine if there is a probationary period. Usually an employer is free to arbitrarily discharge an employee during the probationary period. Many collective bargaining agreements will not recognize you as a union employee until the probationary period is completed.

9. If you are discharged immediately file a claim for unemployment benefits with The Michigan Employment Security Commission.

10. If you believe that you are the subject of unlawful discriminatory or other unlawful acts you should normally report these to your employer as soon as possible. An employer may be able to avoid liability if the employer did not have knowledge of these acts and an opportunity to correct the same. Often times an employee will wait until it is too late to complain.

If you feel a report should be made you should first consult with an experienced attorney who can review your situation with you and advise you as to how to proceed so as to protect your rights under the law.

If you have a question regarding a legal matter in the state of
Michigan contact AAAA Legal Center by Phone or E-Mail

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Copyright 2001, 2002
Last modified: February 11, 2010