Employment-at-will doctrine refers to the assumption that employment is a phenomenon that exists for an indefinite time-period and may be ceased both by an employee or an employer. This approach is used by courts in order to interpret employment relationships. Given the uneven bargaining control between employers and employees, the doctrine is believed to produce excessively harsh results. An employer has the right to fire an employee at any time and for any reason, whether it is good, bad, or there is no reason at all. Nevertheless, in some states employees still have some protection of their rights, though this protection comes more from the federal than from the state legislation. Moreover, some workers receive the additional protection if they are members of unions or have an employment contract. According to this fact, the employment-at-will doctrine gives many advantages for employers and makes employees almost unprotect against the spontaneous decisions of their managers.
Despite the fact that workers in Georgia have little rights, since they work as employees at-will, they receive the federal protection concerning such issues like safety on the job, family and medical leave, hour payments, benefits, a plan, and a union activity (Halbert & Ingulli, 2012). These opportunities cannot be ignored by the employers in Georgia; thus, employees may use the federal law to protect their rights. Government employees have also rights guaranteed by the constitution; it means that they can put in issue the employer’s decision, using a grievance system.
According to this fact, the employers in Georgia face a dilemma; on the one hand, the employment-at-will gives them an opportunity to fire an employee at any time without any significant reason, in other words, if an employer has such a desire. On the other hand, the federal law dictates its own rules, which employers should obey. For instance, an employee cannot be fired basing on his/her background, gender, or religion. According to this fact, the fired employee has always an opportunity to contest the employer’s decision and insist that the employer’s actions were motived by one of the issues, which are protected by the federal law.
In order to understand how an employer in Georgia could find the golden mean between the state laws and the federal laws, it is necessary to understand the main principles of employees’ rights in Georgia (Hirsch & Quillen, 2014). Employees in Georgia have their own rights and responsibilities; which can be introduced in the following manner:
- Every employer should make an employee to complete the “At Will Form”. This form includes the status of the employee, whether he/she is hired on a temporary or permanent status, for a classified or an unclassified position, or a conditional contract.
- Employer should also indicate the wage for the employee’s job.
- When an employer discharges an employee, the last should be asked whether he/she wants to have a resignation or a determination. Depending on the employee’s answer, the employer’s actions should be as follows. In termination case, an employer should end the employment services of the fired employee. The employer should not give any disclosure to the employee. All the property, including cards, badges, and other things that belong to the company, should be returned by the employee. If the employee choses resignation, he/she should provide a resignation letter to his/he employer in writing form and do not do it by phone or email. The employee should complete the exit interview and he/she has the right to ask a recommendation from the employer.
- An employee can be fired with good cause; it means that he/she decides to change his/her place of work. According to the Georgia legislation, an employee at will has the right to change his/her job at any time since there is no contract between an employer and an employee.
- An employee may be a member of a union which will protect his/her rights. Unions deal with employees’ contracts, the issue of abuses, or discrimination.
- An employee has the right to argue his/her termination and request compensation for damage or an attorney fee.
According to this fact, an employer can fire an employee if his/her explanation does not contradict one of these rights or does not attempt to violate one of these rights.
In Georgia, there were cases when an employee was fired without any serious reasons, only because of the employer’s will. For instance, there were few cases connected with the usage of social networks. One employee posted that she hated her boss, though they were friends on Facebook. As a result, the employer saw this post and few days later this employee was fired. Another case connected with the usage of social networks occurred when an employee posted a photo on his page, where he smokes marihuana. His employer saw this photo and soon he fired this employee. In both cases the employees’ termination was the result of the employer’s will, but not the consequence of the employees’ bad performance or breaking company’s laws (Bernabe & Stampini, 2009). Employers fired employees because they behaved disrespectfully or unethically. Hence, their decision was made on an ethical background and the termination can be viewed as rational because employees showed inappropriate behavior, though it was not done directly in the workplace.
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Hence, if I were an employer, I would use this ethical system to limit liability and impact on operations. On the one hand, as an employer in Georgia I have a great authority over my employees and can fire them at will, but, on the other hand, deontology forbids me to do it without any reasonable point.
In conclusion, it can be said that the employment in Georgia is based on principles of at-will employment, which means that an employer has the right to fire an employee at any moment. However, it does not mean that an employee becomes unprotected; he/she still has many rights that are protected by the state and federal laws. According to this fact, an employee may argue an employer’s decision, stating that it was done due to the employee’s origin, sex, or religion. In this case, an employer should pay compensation or even rehire an employee. Hence, an employer in Georgia faces a dilemma; on the one hand, he/she has a right to fire his/her employee without any significant reason, while, on the other hand, an employee may protest this decision and demand compensation. Thus, even the employment-at-will doctrine does not guarantee full freedom of actions for employers in Georgia.