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Ending Probationary Periods

6.16.15

Craig Annunziata was quoted in Human Resources Executive Online on June 16, 2015. The article “Ending Probationary Periods” discussed how some labor attorneys are encouraging companies to eliminate probationary periods for employees because they can jeopardize their at-will employment status and may cause other serious legal ramifications for an organization.

While speaking at an HR conference last month, Craig asked roughly 50 HR professionals in the quick-service restaurant industry a question: How many use probationary periods for new employees? He said almost 70 percent raised their hand.

According to Craig and other employment attorneys, employee probationary periods in non-union environments aren’t necessary, create nothing but confusion and can jeopardize a company’s at-will employment status, resulting in courtroom battles.

Apparently, many lawyers and HR consultants are still in the dark. The majority of Craig’s new clients, whether their revenues exceed $100 million or $1 billion, still offer probationary periods. He points to one new client that consulted with a big Chicago law firm last year when revising its employee handbook. After opening up the handbook, he said one of the first sentences he read stated, “All employees are on a 90-day probationary period.”

“No one has told them not to do it,” said Craig. “[Probationary periods] are potentially going to impair your at-will relationship. Why would you ever [risk] that?”

So far, he said, he has not heard of any recent lawsuits triggered by probationary periods. Still, Craig added, “. . . You want to do everything you can regarding your [HR] policies and statements to employees to maintain the at-will employment status. It just takes one plaintiff’s lawyer to tag a company for a verdict, [and] then all the plaintiff lawyers jump on it.”

To read the full article, please visit Human Resources Executive Online.

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