Probationary Employee Law and Legal Definition

The purpose of a probationary period is to provide a trial period for the employee to learn the job and for the supervisor to observe and evaluate the employee's performance. An employee may be typically be removed from a position at any time and for any reason prior to the completion of the probationary period, as long as it doesn't constitute illegal discrimination. A probationary employee is generally an at-will employee who has no expectation of continued employment. The probationary employee may be dismissed at anytime during the probationary period, for good cause or without cause or reason, depending on the employer's policy. The definition of good cause varies by employer, but may include:

  • deficiency in work performance, attendance, or conduct,
  • lack of aptitude or cooperativeness, and/or
  • undesirable suitability characteristics evidenced by the employee's activities either during or outside official work hours.

The supervisor's failure to counsel, provide training, etc., does not usually constitute a basis to retain the employee if the employee's performance, attendance, or conduct otherwise warrants termination. However, probationary employees may have the right to a "name clearing" meeting, if the employer alleges that the employee committed an infraction which would stigmatize them in future employment. Some employers provide for an appeals procedure to be followed in certain cases. Probationary employer policies vary by employer, so individuals need to consult the policies in force at their workplace to determine applicable requirements.