Probationary Periods: Good for Employees, Bad for Business

Utah is an “at-will” employment state.  This means employees are free to quit their jobs at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.   Likewise, Utah business owners also have the right to fire “at-will” employees at any time, for any lawful reason, or for no reason at all.

Probationary Periods for newly-hired employees can be dangerous for your business because they interfere with the “at-will” status.  For example, if you hire an employee under a “probationary period,” what happens when that period ends?  If the employee is no longer probationary, the employee may believe they now have job security as a “permanent” employee.  Even worse, if you try to fire that employee, they can make a strong argument in court that they are no longer “at-will” because they successfully completed the probationary period.

TAKE-AWAY:  Business owners should partner with legal counsel to carefully review their Employee Handbooks and hiring practices to ensure (1) there is no language or procedure conveying an actual or implied “probationary period,” and (2) that the “at-will” nature of employment is explained to newly-hired employees multiple times in clear, unmistakable language.