Wrongful Termination / Breach of Contract

Wrongful termination and breach of contract employment claims are two common forms of employment liability. Employers are encouraged to carefully define the employer and employee relationship as either at-will or contract. 

Employment At Will

At-will employment is recognized in most states and Washington D.C., with some states having some exceptions or modifications to the at-will status. Generally, an at-will employment relationship means that an employee may be terminated at any time for any reason not contrary to law. An at-will employment relationship also allows employees to terminate their employment with the ministry at any time. If your organization has at-will employees, you are encouraged to include a provision in your employment handbook addressing at-will employment. 

Employment by Contract

An employment contract is a legally enforceable agreement—either written or verbal—that defines the terms and conditions of employment. Organizations that are not careful to clearly explain the at-will employment status to employees can expose themselves to inadvertently creating a contract employment situation. Some courts have found contract employment from handbook provisions, oral assurances, or other conduct that gives the appearance that an employee is under a contract. In fact, some states have supported employee breach of contract lawsuits even when no written contract exists. Accordingly, you are encouraged to have a local attorney review your employment handbook provision regarding at-will and contract employment statuses, as well as any employment contracts you use, to ensure your employment relationship with your employees is what your organization intended.