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Washington State At-Will Employment: What You Need to Know

Washington State At-Will Employment: What You Need to Know

Washington State is an At-Will Employment State. That means that employers do not need to provide cause or give notice before firing an employee. However, that doesn't mean employers can just go around firing people, there are things to consider.

Washington State At-Will Employment

Washington State At-Will Employment means that employers do not necessarily need to provide a reason or give any kind of notice before firing an employee. 

Employee Protections

Employers may not fire employees for any reason that is protected by a collective bargaining agreement, an employer policy, or under federal and / or state law. 

An example, would be violating federal discrimination laws and firing an employee on the basis of age or sex.

Employers are also prohibited from firing or otherwise retaliating against an employee for discussing or filing a complaint about a violation of their protected rights.

Prohibited adverse actions may include:

  • Terminating, suspending, demoting, or denying a promotion
  • Reducing hours or altering the employee’s work schedule
  • Reducing the employee’s rate of pay
  • Threatening to take, or taking action, based upon the immigration status of an employee or an employee’s family member
  • Subjecting the employee to discipline, including write-ups, verbal warnings, points, etc

Employees may file a complaint using this form if they believe their rights have been violated. 

Request for Reason for Discharge

While employers are not obligated to provide a reason for termination, employees may request the reason for discharge via a written request to the business. The business must then provide a signed written statement of the reason for discharge and the effective date.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy At-Will Employment Environment

Employers will want to keep a good relationship with employees, and so the following practices are recommended to avoid any friction or issues surrounding Washington State At-Will Employment:

  • Ensure employee handbooks or company policies include clauses explaining that Washington is an At-Will Employment State (also good to verbally explain this as well)
  • Establish your right as the employer to modify, abolish, or substitute policies at your discretion with or without notice

Tips for Maintaining Compliance When Terminating an Employee

There are some things you can do to help protect your business in the event there is a disagreement relating to at-will employment and termination. 

The key is to keep proper documentation of things that may warrant termination. This includes documentation of things such as: 

  • Performance issues
  • Progressive discipline reports
  • Performance evaluations
  • Investigation reports and findings
  • Any corrective action taken by the Company or managers/supervisors

Get Help with Washington State Compliance

Washington State is among some of the more complex and cutting-edge states when it comes to compliance and employee protection laws. As such it is crucial to maintain compliance, and terminating an employee without legal reasoning can certainly land your business in trouble.

Washington State businesses who are looking for help with compliance should turn to a Washington HR service, which can also help with things like processing Washington State Payroll.  

To see how PayNW is already helping countless businesses with Washington State Compliance, contact us today. 

Learn more about our labor law poster compliance service below, and how it can help keep you in front of compliance issues regarding things such as at-will employment.

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