A recent Utah Supreme Court decision drives home to companies with employees in Utah that a clear and conspicuous disclaimer in a prominent point of an employee handbook goes a long way to protecting the company from any implied contractual claims by employees. Such a disclaimer nearly eliminates the possibility of claims that the handbook creates a contractual right to continued employment or that it alters employees’ at-will status. In Tomlinson v. NCR Corp., a terminated employee argued that ambiguous language in an employee handbook about at-will employment status meant that some employees were at-will while others could only be dismissed for cause. The Utah Supreme Court disagreed holding that the handbook’s clear disclaimer that no contract was created thereby was sufficient to establish the parties’ intent. Reversing the Court of Appeals, the Utah Supreme Court dismissed plaintiff’s claims.

Companies with Utah employees are advised to review their handbooks to ensure that they contain clear and conspicuous disclaimers preferably at the beginning of the handbook. Based on Tomlinson, it appears that such a disclaimer will significantly undermine attempts by employees to argue that any of the handbook provisions or stand-alone company polices create a contractual right to continued employment.