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At-Will employment and the high cost to defend an employment lawsuit

There was an interesting legal exchange on the Huffington Post last week about the issue of at-will law. The segment is summarized as: "In 49 of 50 states there's no law requiring just cause for employee termination. Is at-will employment necessary to promote U.S. business, or exploitative of workers?"

The segment is hosted by Ahmed Shihab-Eldin of Huffington Post and includes employment law attorneys Page Fiedler and Jon Hyman and labor rights and union activist Rand Wilson. Wilson favors expanding protections for workers and Hyman argues that sufficient laws and remedies exist to generally deter employers from capricious firing. Fiedler represented an employee who was fired for being too attractive. It's an interesting and lively (28 minute) exchange. One point of interest is that Fiedler offers an endorsement of the good job that the HR profession is doing in helping to ensure that workers are being treated more fairly.

You can see the full segment in the embedded video below or visit the event page to see the segment and related matter: You're Fired! No, Really....

Related, in response to a statement he made, Hyman blogs about How much it costs to defend an employment lawsuit, a strong deterrent to an employer for arbitrary termination decisions.

"The reality is that defending a discrimination or other employment lawsuit is expensive. Defending a case through discovery and a ruling on a motion for summary judgment can cost an employer between $75,000 and $125,000. If an employer loses summary judgment (which, much more often than not, is the case), the employer can expect to spend a total of $175,000 to $250,000 to take a case to a jury verdict at trial.

Most employers, if acting rationally, will chose to retain an employee instead of assuming the risk of a $250,000 legal bill with an uncertain outcome."


Huffington Post points to these related articles for further reading
It's All Too Easy to Get Fired in America: In 49 of 50 States, You Can Be Fired for Any Reason

Rules of Termination: Contemplate before you terminate

Also related:
Employment At Will: The Most Misunderstood Workplace Principle

NLRB Confirms Legality of Most At-Will Disclaimers (and Employers Everywhere Rejoice)


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