COMMON MISTAKES EMPLOYERS MAKE WITH AT-WILL EMPLOYMENT IN TEXAS

By David Oliver and Laura Fowler

Texas law permits private employers and nonprofit organizations to offer at-will employment – a term used to refer to an employment arrangement in which either party may terminate the relationship at any time without cause. Unfortunately, some employers make mistakes that make it difficult for them to enforce ­at-will employment relationships.

One of the most common errors businesses make when creating an initial job offer letter or agreement is to state an annual salary.  This creates an issue in an at-will arrangement because a business can become liable for the full annual salary if it chooses to terminate the relationship early. The best way to avoid this is to outline pay by the hourly or daily rate or monthly salary payment.

Some employers also encounter problems when extending an opportunity with a period of time referred to as a probationary period. Under such agreements, employees are often afforded additional rights at the completion of the outlined period. It is important to minimize wording of probationary periods in a job offer letter and legal assistance is suggested to ensure your offer letter is compliant with the laws. Employee hand books are the proper place for such discussions, not written offer letters.

Another common area of misunderstanding in at-will employment is protected class status. At-will employment agreements do not give an employer the right to discharge an employee on the basis of protected class status such as race, ethnicity, gender, disability, age, etc. A business can face serious consequences if an employee can prove that she or he was fired solely for being classified in one or more of these groups.

The Texas Workforce Commission provides a sample job offer letter for small private employers to utilize as well as other recommended forms and policy language that can prove helpful for small businesses to ensure they are in compliance with Texas law when hiring. For additional help, you can consult an attorney that specializes in employment law.

The preceding is part of a series of articles being offered in the coming weeks by The Fowler Law Firm called Employment Law Summer School. These articles are designed to help you avoid costly legal mistakes.

About your authors:

David Oliver serves as The Fowler Law Firm PC—Georgetown Managing Attorney. He counsels many private employers daily and represents them in trial.

Laura Fowler is the Managing Shareholder of The Fowler Law Firm PC. She is a regular speaker on a variety of business related topics. Email her at lfowler@thefowlerlawfirm.com to receive updates on dates, topics and sponsors of upcoming discussions.  

About The Fowler Law Firm PC:

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