Under Wisconsin law, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, employment is “at will.” This means that either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship without giving either notice or a reason. However, while this is true in theory, some Wisconsin laws and the Wisconsin courts have changed the traditional doctrine.
Also, even if the employer has no explicit employment agreement with the worker, certain actions and representations can bind the employer just as if there were a written contract. If an employee can prove that an employee manual containing job-security and termination procedures could reasonably be understood by an employee to create binding duties and obligations between the employer and its employees, the manual will constitute, in effect, a unilateral offer to contract that an employee may accept through continued employment.
Employers should therefore be cautious about allowing anyone in the organization to make a promise of job security to an employee or applicant. If the promise can be seen as an inducement for an employee or prospective employee to give up something of value, by relocating, for instance, or by leaving a good job or turning down an attractive job offer, it is likely to be considered a “contract.”
Employee handbooks. Despite a strong presumption in favor of the at-will standard, the Wisconsin courts have held that statements and procedures contained in an employee handbook or policy manual may create an employment contract. There is additional information on this subject.