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What is an "introductory period," and why should it not be called a "probationary period"?

An “introductory period” is period of time established by an employer after the hire of an employee during which the employer and the employee evaluate whether a successful employment relationship can be created. During this period the employer determines whether the employee has the skills and other qualifications needed to succeed. The employee uses the period to evaluate whether he or she is a good match for the position and the company. Introductory periods usually extend from 60 to 90 days from the date of hire. Typically, employees are in training and more closely evaluated during this time. Often, at the end of an introductory period, additional employee benefits may begin, such as vacation or sick time accrual.

Some employers refer to these initial periods of employment as “probationary periods.” In employment-at-will states, the use of the term “probationary period” and successful completion of this period may weaken the employer’s employment-at-will status. Courts have determined that the use of probationary periods may provide employees who have successfully completed this period with additional employment rights. For definitive guidance on the use of the term “probationary period,” employers should consult with legal counsel.


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