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EMPLOYMENT AT WILL AND WRONGFUL DISCHARGE
Relevance to Coastal County Clerk of Court
The following excerpts from the scenario are relevant to this topic:
…recently elected County Clerk of Court Stan Accord follows through on a campaign promise of “efficiency and accountability” by eliminating 15 jobs in the office of the County Clerk of Court. Accord has eliminated all the jobs associated with data records management and computer systems, replacing them with contracted services from a competitive bid.
…one of the more controversial layoffs is that of Deputy Clerk of Courts Dennis Munger…Accord says that Munger’s position, like all county employees, is an “at will” job with no job protection, and that he has violated no statutes or the rights of employees in eliminating the jobs…including the job of Munger. Accord explains that if records and computer management is being outsourced, there is no need for the deputy clerk’s position, which has historically supervised this function when it was internally staffed.
The Bugle has been advised that Dennis Munger has filed an action in Circuit Court claiming wrongful discharge by the county, after being dismissed in a layoff by Clerk of Court Stan Accord. “He had no justification for firing me – he has violated my legal rights”, said Munger.
Employment at Will Doctrine
Historically, employers and employees have been free to enter into an employment relationship – or end it – without government or court intervention. This legal doctrine is known as “Employment at Will” and has existed for centuries. If the Coastal County Clerk of Court office is indeed in an Employment at Will situation, then Stan Accord can discharge employees for no reason.
All states in the U.S. begin with this “default” value of the employment relationship and then narrow the doctrine with some exceptions that prohibit the employer from discharging the employee in certain instances. In practice, most employers do provide a...
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