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Wisconsin Employment Contracts: What you need to know

Every employment relationship is a contractual relationship, regardless of whether the contract is reduced to writing. Employment contracts take many forms, including at-will employment, implied contracts created by offer letters or language in employee handbooks, collective bargaining agreements or union contracts, and individual written employment agreements.
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Wisconsin is an “employment-at-will” state, so the default contract of employment is “at will.” This means that both the employee and employer are generally free to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, as long as the reason is not illegal or violative of public policy (e.g., discriminatory). While the presumption in favor of at-will employment is strong in Wisconsin, the courts have recognized exceptions in some circumstances.
A contract limiting the right of either the employee or employer to terminate the employment relationship may be implied from all the circumstances surrounding the employment relationship. The courts will consider if, based on the facts and circumstances, a reasonable person could conclude that the parties intended to change or limit the at-will nature of the employment relationship.
In certain circumstances, oral statements made by an employer or its managers in combination with provisions in employee handbooks and other documents, such as offer letters, can give rise to an implied contract that limits the employer's right to terminate an employee. Although an isolated or casual remark regarding job security will rarely change an otherwise at-will employment relationship, an employer can best prevent potential contract claims by ...

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