By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. a New Jersey Employment Law Attorney
Employers and employees often look upon the Employee Handbook as an employment agreement. Given New Jersey’s presumption of at-will employment, many employers are reluctant to risk granting more rights to an employee than mandated by law. However, such a limited view may expose an employer to even greater liability.
The court held that a provision within an employee handbook was enforceable as an employment contract:
When an employer of a substantial number of employees circulates a manual that, when fairly read, provides that certain benefits are an incident of the employment (including, especially a job security provision), the judiciary, instead of “grudgingly” conceding the enforceability of those provisions, may construe them in accordance with the reasonable expectations of employees.
However, an employer can avoid creating an implied contract by including a clear and prominent disclaimer. If such a disclaimer within the handbook uses strong, straightforward and absolutely clear language that the handbook does not create any promises and that the employer is free to terminate employees at will and to change wages and other conditions without consulting employees or receiving their agreement, then the handbook will not constitute an implied contract.
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