"I had been working there for a year, and then was fired for no reason at all. What rights do I have?" The following summary of Arkansas employment rights provides guidance regarding this and similar questions.

I. WRONGFUL DISCHARGE IN ARKANSAS

A wrongful discharge lawsuit is based on a claim that an employmer has violated state and/or federal law in firing an employee. If such a lawsuit is successful, the ex-employee can recover lost wages and other benefits, and, in some cases, punitive damages.

However, in most cases in Arkansas an employee who has been terminated does not have a claim. Arkansas law, as compared with some other states, favors the employer. However, there are circumstances where the ex- employee can prevail.

In a non-union setting, an Arkansas employment relationship not in writing is generally viewed to be "at will". This means that an employee can be discharged at any time for any reason, or for not reason at all. Arkansas law does not require that an employer have "Just cause" in order to fire an employee.

There are exceptions to the "at will" doctrine. They include the following:

II. ARKANSAS UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

Employees are normally entitled to unemployment benefits when they are discharged from work. In most cases, an ex-employee will receive these benefits.

However, an employee is not entitled to unemployment benefits if he is terminated because of misconduct . Misconduct means more than incompetence or poor judgment. The employer must show that the employee's conduct is either intentional, or else shows an extreme lack of concern for his duties.

In order for an employer to show such intentional conduct, it must give fair warning to the employee. Employers try to prove intentional conduct by using personnel policy manuals which lists specific type of prohibited conduct (e.g. rules on absenteeism, tardiness, use of work time for personal matters). The employees are given a copy of the manual when they are employed, and are required to sign a form stating that they have received it. Employers also utitlize periodic written evaluations of the employee's performance, listing specific criticisms and specifying what conduct the employee must correct in order to avoid termination.

Employees often receive benefits even when the employer has taken such steps. It is difficult to prove that an employee intentionally violated company policies.

Arkansas unemployment claims are made at the Arkansas Workforce Center office for your area. That office assists employees in making their claims, and can inform them of the amount they will receive if they are awarded benefits. The Workforce Center office in Russellville is located at 104 Rochester Ave, telephone 479-968-2784.

III. CONTRACTS OF EMPLOYMENT IN ARKANSAS

Written contracts of employment can be of benefit to employers and key employees. A well-written employment contract sets the"ground rules" by which both employer and employee must abide.

The two main reasons that employees want written contracts are 1) to specify wages and other benefits (e.g. insurance, vacation) which the employer is to provide; and 2) to be guaranteed employment for a specific period of time. Sometimes it is also important that the specific duties the employee is to perform be specified in the contract. The employee may wish to insist that a provision stating that he can only be terminated for just cause be included in the contract. An employer's normally broad right to terminate an employee "at will" can be restricted by the terms of the employment contract.

Employers often use employment contracts in order to have a "non- compete" clause. The law allows an employer to place reasonable restrictions on how a former employee may compete with the employer. However, the restrictions must be reasonable with respect to both time and geography, and must protect a valid interest of the employer. For example, a restriction preventing competition for one year within a 50 mile radius might be enforced by a court, while one involving a three year, 200 mile radius might not. Employers also use such contracts in order to have spefific written provisions preventing the employee from using confidential and proprietary information once he leaves the employment of the company.

IV. CONCLUSION

Employment law is quite complex. This article is a summary of some of the key employment rights of employers and employees in Arkansas. It is not intended as advice for any specific situation involver an employer and an employee,as the points made here are only general in nature.

Our office represents both employees and employers in Arkansas employment law matters. We welcome the opportunity to assist you. To discuss your situation further, please call 479-968-4747.

Law Offices of Jim Carfagno, Jr., P.A.
2000 W. Main, Ste. B
Russellville, AR 72801
Telephone: 479-968-4747

Copyright (c) 2014, Jim Carfagno, Jr., P.A. All rights reserved.

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