For people who are not looking at the contract or agreement they sign when they get a new job, it’s time to start looking closely because the words “at will” may be embedded somewhere in there.
Utah is one of the states with at-will employment laws, meaning an employer can fire an employee without any cause or notice.
Employees at UVU who have an at-will agreement can be fired tomorrow without being given any notice or reason because UVU employment policy is in line with the state’s law. In addition, employees have no say except if they feel they were fired based on illegal discrimination or illegal termination in violation of a public policy.
The good news is that an at-will employee may quit the job without having to give any notice as well.
Unlike a salaried job, an at-will job is basically any job that is paid by the hour and does not have a lot of rights to grievances. Permanent employees cannot be fired at will, have rights to grievances and can sue their employer.
What makes UVU’s policy a little different is that at UVU, at-will employees have a place to run to when they are fired.
Ron Price, associate vice president of Human Resources feels the HR department is a resource.
“HR is the gatekeeper,” Price said. “We ask what the reason for termination was, what was the rationale. We do this to see there’s good action taken to correct performance.”
As of the fall of 2010, UVU had 4,511 employees and out of these, 2,982 were at-will or part-time employees, including adjunct professors, students, work-study students and temporary agreement and public service instructors.
“I wasn’t fully aware of the policy when I got employed, but to me I just kind of expect it,” said Christian Heimburger, an adjunct professor in the history department “That does not change the way I teach. I don’t put less effort in my teaching because I want to teach with standards.”
The policy was unexpected for others who did not know about the law and did not expect that kind of law in Utah.
“I work four hours everyday; I don’t have enough energy to smile to everyone,” said Gabriel Hernandez, a business major and UVU senior from Mexico City, Mexico. “Besides, I have my own problems; I think it’s unfair to fire me just because you think I am not friendly.”
Price’s advice for at-will employees is to “Be as good as you can, show up to work early, have a great attitude, talk to your supervisor if you get into trouble, and try to do what you have to do and even more.”