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Avon CEO's departure provides a good chance to discuss at-will employment

Lots of women around Detroit use Avon products. The cosmetics giant is one of the best-known names in the makeup industry and, as such, is actually quite a big player on Wall Street. Investor dissatisfaction may have played a role in the recently announced dismissal of CEO Andrea Jung, who will be replaced later this month. Under her watch, Avon's stock value has withered and the government began investigating allegations of overseas bribes.

Jung's replacement is a good opportunity for us to discuss the right and wrong way to terminate an employee.

Most employees are at-will employees, meaning that they can be fired almost at any time for nearly any reason (presuming that reason does not involve age, gender, national origin, etc.). However, many top employees, such as Jung, often have an employment agreement. Such agreements not only set out things you would expect, such as pay and benefits, but also things such as what will happen if the company and employee decide to part ways.

With employment agreements, it is not uncommon for the employer to come to regret the terms of the departure provision and to try to renege on them. When that happens, it is crucial that the employee concerned obtain legal representation and work to preserve the rights and benefits he or she negotiated upon first joining the company. That has not happened with Jung yet (that we know about, at least) but as we said, it s not uncommon. It would be wonderful if employees could trust their employers to do what they said they would, but that just is not always the case.

Source: The Washington Post, "The women atop Avon: A look at the backgrounds of Andrea Jung, Sheri McCoy," April 9, 2012

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