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The law seems able to absorb only so many new ideas in a given area at one time. In 1967 Professor Lawrence Blades of Kansas produced a pioneering article in which he decried 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 witnessed a remarkable reaction. With a unanimity rare, if not unprecedented, among the contentious tribe of labor academics and labor arbitrators, a veritable Who's Who of those professions stepped forth to embrace Blades' notion, and to refine and elaborate it -- Aaron, Blumrosen, Howlett, Peck, Stieber, and Summers, to name only some. But the persons who ultimately counted the most, the judges and the legislators, hung back. In the 1960s the country had taken vast strides 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. It was as if we needed a pause to catch our breath before venturing on into more open and exposed territory. Now, as we enter the 1980s, there are signs of quickening interest by both courts and legislatures in broader protections for employees' job interests, and the time seems ripe for an appraisal of where we have arrived and where we might be headed.

I see no reason to retrace at length the trail that has been blazed by my many predecessors. My principal purpose will be to consider the numerous practical problems that must 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. Following that will come a summary of 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.


Reproduced with permission. Bloomberg Law, Copyright 1982 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)