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Vol. 2006-08-d August, 2006

Employment; At-Will
(In response to numerous inquiries. Editor)

Employment by written agreement or contract, for a specific period of time of not less than one year, with specific terms, is strictly contractual and will be construed according to the agreement between the parties. At-will employment is, however, as the name implies, at the will (or whim) of the employer.

The Supreme Court of Ohio held:
{ 17} At-will employment is contractual in nature. Floyd v. DuBois Soap Co. (1942), 139 Ohio St. 520, 530-531, 23 O.O. 20, 41 N.E.2d 393. In such a relationship, the employee agrees to perform work under the direction and control of the employer, and the employer agrees to pay the employee at an agreed rate. Moreover, either an employer or an employee in a pure at-will employment relationship may legally terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. Mers v. Dispatch Printing Co. (1985), 19 Ohio St.3d 100, 103, 19 OBR 261, 483 N.E.2d 150. In the event that an at-will employee quits or is fired, he or she provides no further services for the employer and is generally entitled only to wages and benefits already earned.

{ 18} It follows that either an employer or an employee in an at-will relationship may propose to change the terms of their employment relationship at any time.
If, for instance, an employer notifies an employee that the employee's compensation will be reduced, the employee's remedy, if dissatisfied, is to quit. Similarly, if the employee proposes to the employer that he deserves a raise and will no longer work at his current rate, the employer may either negotiate an increase or accept the loss of his employee. In either event the employee is entitled to be paid only for services already rendered pursuant to terms to which they both have agreed. Thus, mutual promises to employ and to be employed on an ongoing at-will basis, according to agreed terms, are supported by consideration: the promise of one serves as consideration for the promise of the other.

Lake Land Emp. Group of Akron, LLC v. Columber, 101 Ohio St.3d 242, 2004-Ohio-786.

AUTHOR / EDITOR: J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, a Registered Architect, (AIA, NCARB) Registered Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Planner and Senior Appraiser (ASA), admitted to practice law before the Bar of Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio and Illinois (Central Dist.), the US Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He is a Mediator, Arbitrator and Litigator with experience in Business, Construction Law, and Public Works, and with additional experience in Real Estate, Construction Attorney (Legal Project and Crisis Management), and as an Expert Witness (Forensic Architect). His office is in Cleveland, Ohio.

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