By: Mark A. Wagner, Employment and Litigation Attorney
January 17th, 2019
Prince Yeates employment lawyers Mark Wagner and John Chindlund recently completed a broad summary of Utah employment law for inclusion in an upcoming compendium of state labor and employment laws for Primerus, an exclusive international society of nearly 200 independent peer-reviewed law firms in more than 40 countries. Although the summary was generally intended to educate in-house counsel and other Primerus member law firms, we thought we would share it with you in a series of weekly FAQs over the next several months. Our first installment is below.
Question of the Week: Is Utah an At-Will Employment State?
In Utah, an employment relationship for an indefinite term gives rise to a presumption that the employment relationship is at will. Tomlinson v NCR Corp., 2014 UT 55, ¶11.
“Such a relationship allows ‘both the employer and the employee to terminate the employment for any reason and allows the employer to do so without extending any procedural safeguards to an employee.’”
Id. (quoting Fox v. MCI Commc’ns Corp., 931 P.2d 857, 859 (Utah 1997)). The employment-at-will presumption is rebuttable, however, and can be overcome by establishing one of three exceptions to the doctrine.
First, the presumption is overcome when “a statute or regulation restricts the right of an employer to terminate an employee under certain conditions.” Hansen v. Am. Online, 2004 UT 62, ¶7 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Second, the presumption may be overcome by showing that “the termination of employment constitutes a violation of a clear and substantial public policy.” Ray v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2015 UT 83, ¶12.
Third, the presumption may be overcome “by showing that the parties created an implied-in-fact contract, modifying the employee’s at-will status.” Hodgson v. Bunzl Utah, Inc., 844 P.2d 331, 333 (Utah 1992).
Each of these exceptions will be discussed in more detail in upcoming posts, so please check back.
Mark A. Wagner concentrates his practice in employment law, homeowners association law, and health care law, and serves as Chair of the firm’s Employment and Labor Practice Group.