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Employment at-will, wrongful termination and resolving employment disputes, P.2

Last time, we began looking at the rule of at-will employment, and some exceptions to the rule under federal and state law. In addition to the exceptions we've already mentioned, there is another important exception to the rule: contractual modification of the rule.

Employment contracts, particularly for high-level employees, often do make modifications on the at-will employment rule. Typically, these agreements give the employee bolstered job security by requiring the employer to provide a just reason for termination, or to follow a set procedure before terminating the employee. Whatever the specifics of the agreement, the employer is not able to terminate the relationship unconditionally. 

For employers, it is important to establish sound policies for negotiating employment agreements with respect to termination of the employment relationship. Of particular importance is ensuring uniformity between employment agreement and employee handbooks and other materials provided to employees. Employers need to make sure they avoid language in these other materials which would cause employees to believe they have job protections they, in fact, do not.

Employers also need to be sure, of course, that they are able to skillfully comply with all federal and state regulations surrounding the issues of discrimination, retaliation, and other employee protections related to the employment relationship. Many problems can be avoided simply by thorough planning and training, and by being consistent. When problems do arise, and it becomes necessary to defend the business against charges of wrongful termination, whether because of breach of contract or violation of statutory or common law duties, an experienced attorney can help ensure a company's rights and interests are zealously advocated. 

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