When you were hired by your current company, you were handed a whole packet of paperwork – and an employee handbook was somewhere in there. More than likely, you gave it a cursory glance before filing it away in the back of your desk.
You might want to get that handbook back out and read it – just in case you ever need it. If you run into problems and believe that you’ve been unfairly (and illegally) terminated from your position, that handbook could be more valuable than you know.
An employee handbook can create an implied contract
Unless you have a formal employment contract, you’re probably an “at-will” employee – and that generally means that you can be fired for any reason that doesn’t violate the law or go against public policy (like racial discrimination or an attempt to obtain better working conditions).
However, your employer may have created an implied contract by establishing policies in their own handbook that they’re expected to follow.
What sort of things might offer you formal protection against an employer’s whims? Check your handbook to see if:
- There’s language that states that you can only be fired for “just cause.”
- There’s language that states every employee will be given a verbal or written warning before they will be terminated.
- There’s an affirmative statement that the handbook doesn’t create a contract.
Any statement of the sort may be enough to persuade a court that you were more than an “at-will” employee and, therefore, wrongfully dismissed.
On the flip side, it’s important to understand that language that clearly states the opposite can work against you. For example, a clause that says that nothing within the handbook creates any kind of legal contract and that the terms can be changed without notice will likely mean your handbook isn’t of much use.
It can be difficult to understand your rights when you’ve been unfairly treated by an employer, so make sure that you learn more about your legal options.