Since Colorado is an “at-will” state, employers in Colorado are generally free to terminate the employment of an employee at any time, with or without cause. Exceptions arise if there is an employment contract governing the employee’s employment or a pattern of behavior by the employer that sets employee expectations for continued employment.
One of the most common mistakes employers make to jeopardize the at-will status of their employees is to include provisions in the company’s handbook that create a contract of employment. For example, including a probationary period in the handbook can destroy the at-will status of the employee by implying that once the probationary period is over, the employee is entitled to perpetual employment. Including a very detailed disciplinary process in the handbook may also imply that employees can only be terminated “for-cause” and only after the disciplinary process outlined in the handbook has been followed.
Employers can reduce the risk of such claims by including a strong disclaimer in their company’s handbook providing that the company can bypass disciplinary policies and terminate the employee’s
employment at any time. Employers should also have all of their employees sign an acknowledgment that they have received the handbook including that disclaimer.
If you would like more information regarding your company handbook or employment policies, please contact our Business Law Group partner, David A. Closson at [email protected].