ERIC Number: ED234456
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Nov
Reference Count: 0
Erosion of the At-Will Rule and Freedom of Communication in Private Sector Organizations.
The "at-will" rule in American law is defined as the right of a private sector employer to dismiss an employee without a contract for virtually any reason. The rule has thrived since the nineteenth century and is still a major factor in the employer-employee relationship. However, recent court decisions have fashioned common law exceptions to the rule in an effort to mitigate the harsh treatment of employees by their employers. A review of case law since 1966 reveals a certain pattern in the courts' handling of the rule. For example, only a small minority of states will allow a tort cause of action for wrongful discharge, and even fewer will entertain a breach of contract suit by an at-will employee. Further, most state courts seek a clear mandate of public policy grounded in statutes, administrative rules, or state constitutions as the basis of their decisions. In consideration of those cases where employees sought tort remedies for their dismissal, the courts have allowed them to pursue their actions when the employee had been fired for (1) refusing to commit an illegal act, (2) exercising a statutory right, (3) performing a statutory duty, or (4) acting in what he or she considered to be a public policy interest. The courts have also limited the rule through breach of contract actions, specifically in cases where employers have not shown good faith and fair dealing or have breached contracts in violation of public policy interests. (FL)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Researchers; Community
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: At Will Rule
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (Washington, DC, November 10-13, 1983).