The common law rule regarding the employer-employee relationship allows the termination of the relationship by either party, without notice and without cause.

Oregon courts have long followed this general rule of “at-will” employment. This means that generally, in the absence of a contract or statute to the contrary, Oregon employers may discharge an employee at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all. Simpson v. Western Graphics, 293 Or 96, 99, 643 P2d 1276 (1982); Nees v. Hocks, 272 Or 210, 216, 536 P2d 512 (1975).

Most employers choose to reserve the right to employ at will with specific language in personnel policies.

Example: “We reserve the right to employ at will. This means that employment can be terminated, with or without cause, and with or without notice, at any time, at the option of the company or at the option of the employee.”

To maintain at-will status, it´s wise for employers to indicate that policies are merely guidelines and are not to be construed as a contract.

Example: “These policies are not to be construed as a contract of employment. We expressly reserve the right to change, add to, or delete policies at any time. Changes will be effective on dates determined by the company, and you may not rely on policies that have been superseded. No supervisor or manager other than our Chief Executive Officer, Beau Lee, has authority to alter the policies, and all such changes must be in writing.”

Declaring and retaining at-will status provides an employer greater flexibility in the workplace, but being an at-will employer is not a cure-all or a substitute for establishing clear policies, keeping thorough documentation, and applying consistent disciplinary practices.

Since organizations that employ individuals at will may still be called upon to defend various types of employment claims in court or before state or federal agencies, prudent at-will employers will maintain records showing a legitimate business reason for any important personnel action.


Source:  Bureau of Labor and Industries