Most employers include some statement in their handbooks indicating that either the employee or employer may end the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all. This is commonly referred to as at-will employment. The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has recently begun to take issue with certain at-will disclaimers contained in employee handbooks.
In February 2012, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge found that a statement saying the at-will employment relationship cannot be modified in any way violated the NLRA, concluding that it could be interpreted to limit employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity to change the terms and conditions of their employment. American Red Cross Arizona Blood Services Region, 28-CA-23443 (Feb. 1, 2012).
That same month, the NLRB filed a complaint against Hyatt Hotels Corporation. That matter was settled before a hearing, with Hyatt agreeing to, among others, delete the offending at-will disclaimers from its handbook. Hyatt Hotels Corporation, 28-CA-061114 (Feb. 29, 2012). Employers should have their handbook policies reviewed periodically in light of this, and other, uncharted territory.