Employment “At Will”
Washington State is an “at will” employment state, which means that either the employer or employee may terminate an employment relationship at any time, for any or no reason at all. And, generally, neither has to give advance notice of termination. Of course, there are always exceptions to the general rule.
One exception to the at will doctrine is the right to be free from discrimination at the workplace. Generally, under both state and federal law, discrimination occurs whenever and employer treats an employee differently and denies him/her equal treatment or access because of their membership in a Protected Class. A protected class includes race, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, and sexual orientation among others.
Another exception is employment by contract or agreement. An employment contract will generally spell out the terms and conditions of one’s employment, including how much the worker is to be paid and how long the employment relationship is to last. It may also say how termination occurs, how much notice is required, any disciplinary process, and any grievance procedures. A common example of an employment contract is when one belongs to a union and is subject to a collective bargaining agreement. Aside from formal written agreements, employment contracts can also be “implied,” including statements in employee or supervisor handbooks, orientation materials, policy manuals, oral promises, and so on. Read your agreement and any documents it mentions carefully.
Severance pay is a voluntary benefit and Washington law does not require employers to provide severance pay. But , if an employer promises severance pay in an employment contract or policy handbook, it must adhere to the terms of the contract or policies.
Wage and Hour Protections
Washington employees are also protected by a variety of state wage and hour statutes and regulations. Some of those protections include establishing the state minimum wage, right to overtime pay, providing for meal breaks, rest breaks and other assorted individual worker rights. The Department of Labor & Industries website contains useful agency interpretations and enforcement policies that can be a valuable resource.
You are also welcome to view and download more information contained in the brochure entitled “Understanding My Rights as an Employee” available on our Publications page.
At Torres & Haroldson, PLLC, we have the experience to help you with your employment issue. We understand that your job allows you to provide, and offers a sense of security for you and your loved ones. If you are experiencing employment-related issues, contact our office today for a consultation. Call now at 425-458-3170 or email us now at [email protected].