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Avoiding implied contracts in the employee manual

Laws in Houston, Texas, typically support employers in setting the guidelines for employment relationships for the good of the company. This includes an at-will employment doctrine stating that the employment could end without a reason. The Texas Municipal League explains this law allows an employer to dismiss an employee whenever he or she believes it is necessary, unless it is a case involving discrimination against a protected class or retaliation. However, there are a few exceptions to the law, and one of these could be located in the company’s own policies and procedures.

Naturally, the terms of a formal employment contract must be met to avoid litigation, and these often include the length of time the employee will remain with the company. Even if an employer does not draw up a formal employee contract that outlines circumstances regarding dismissal, the company may have a policy that clarifies these explicitly. For example, there may be a “three strikes and you’re out” policy that is based on performance. The employer may believe there is no need for documentation of the worker’s poor performance because of the at-will employment doctrine. But, the former employee may disagree and file a claim against the company.

The Houston Chronicle points out that implied employment contracts are not always seen as such in court. Employers can protect themselves from this type of litigation in many cases by avoiding concrete language regarding termination. Some experts also recommend adding a clause or formal document defining the employment as at-will, and having the employee sign it. With the appropriate question, employers may protect themselves from disgruntled employees who wish to file lawsuits.

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