Iowa is an at-will employment state. The term at-will presumes that employment is voluntary and indefinite for both employers and employees. Either party can terminate the relationship at any time. For employers, however, there are some exceptions to the at-will doctrine.

Obviously employers cannot violate state or federal laws when firing employees. Employers may also not terminate employees if a contract exists between the parties. Employment contracts may be the result of collective bargaining agreements or individual written contracts.

Less obvious to some, is the fact that employment contracts may arise through the policies outlined in an employee handbook provided to all employees. Handbooks may provide employees with expectations regarding disciplinary and termination procedures. Deviations from the policies outlined in the manual may provide a basis for a wrongful termination action against the employer.

In order to prevent such an action, employers that provide handbooks to employees should follow steps to ensure that the handbook reinforces the at-will doctrine.