Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1987

Abstract

A 55-year-old white male, who has spent thirty years working his way up to a responsible middle-management position in his company, is asked for his resignation. No reason given. Even though the employee could demonstrate that he still is qualified to perform his duties, the employer's action in dismissing him would be quite unexceptionable under the conventional American common law doctrine of employment at will. The situation could be even more disturbing. If the employment-at-will principle were allowed its full scope, an employee would have no recourse even if he knew he was being discharged because he had refused to commit perjury at the behest of his employer, or had refused to participate in an illegal price-fixing scheme, or had taken time from work to fulfill his civic duty of serving on a jury. One would like to assume that these latter, more extreme cases are relatively rare. But the practical problem of the employee who is dismissed unfairly, with all the shattering economic and psychological consequences that may follow, is a sizeable one. One careful scholar has estimated that about one million nonunion, nonprobationary employees are discharged annually in this country, and that of this number as many as 100,000 would have viable causes of action if they were afforded the same ''just cause'' protections available under the usual collective bargaining agreement.


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