Inserting itself once again in the relationship between employers and their non-union employees, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") recently settled a case in which the General Counsel alleged that certain common "at-will" disclaimers in employee handbooks and manuals violated the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"). Raised but unresolved is the impact of this settlement on "at will" disclaimers in general.
In February 2012, the NLRB’s General Counsel’s Office issued a complaint against Hyatt Hotels and alleged that Hyatt’s employee handbook violated the NLRA by requiring employees to acknowledge that their at-will employment status could be altered only by a writing signed by management. Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon argued that the acknowledgement had a chilling effect on the right of employees to engage in union organizing or to alter their employment relationship through collective bargaining. The case, however, settled before an administrative law judge or the NLRB ruled on the validity of the Acting General Counsel’s legal theory.
Most employers have language in their handbooks informing employees that their employment is at-will; that the employer may terminate their employment at any time, for any non-discriminatory reason; and that their at-will status can be amended, altered or modified only in writing by a senior official.