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In 1967 Professor Lawrence Blades of Kansas criticized the iron grip of the contract doctrine of employment at will, and argued that all employees should be legally protected against abusive discharge. The next dozen years saw a remarkable reaction. With rare unanimity, a veritable Who's Who of labor academics and labor arbitrators, Aaron, Blumrosen, Howlett, Peck, Stieber, and Summers, to name only some, stepped forth to embrace Blades' notion, and to refine and elaborate it. But the persons who counted the most, the judges and the legislators, hung back. In the 1960s, vast strides were taken at both the federal and state levels to stamp out discrimination in employment based on such invidious and particularized grounds as race, sex, religion, national origin, and age. After a lull during the 1970s, as we settle into the '80s there are signs of quickening interest from courts and legislatures in broader protections for employees' job interests. The time seems ripe for an appraisal of where we have arrived and where we may be headed. In this article, I will consider the practical problems to be resolved if we are to effectuate the concept of protecting employees generally against unjust discipline. First, however, I shall briefly survey the existing body of law, both here and abroad, with special emphasis on the significant changes occurring in the United States over the past two decades. Second, I will summarize the various major proposals for dealing with the unfair treatment of employees. Finally, I shall focus on some concrete suggestions concerning appropriate procedures and remedies.


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