The Perfect Compromise: Bridging the Gap between At-Will Employment and Just Cause

Source: Nicole B. Porter, Nebraska Law Review, (Forthcoming)

From the abstract:
Many scholars have criticized the harshness of the employment at-will presumption, which allows an employer to terminate an employee for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. Other scholars defend at-will employment and criticize the just cause standard. This Article does not take sides in this debate; but instead, attempts to bridge the gap between the two by proposing a compromise statute, which I call the Employment Termination Equity Act (ETEA). Under ETEA, employers would remain free to terminate without having the difficult burden of proving just cause. However, certain enumerated reasons for termination would be unlawful. In determining which termination decisions should warrant protection, my goal was two-fold: (1) to make unlawful egregious termination decisions that have previously been unremedied despite the many exceptions to at-will employment and (2) to provide some overlap protection with current employment statutes by using a procedural process that will be more easily accessible by employees. Yet, in the spirit of true compromise, ETEA will provide fewer types of remedies than other employment statutes or common law claims, and will force plaintiffs to choose between suit under this proposed termination statute and other statutory remedies. As with any compromise, lines had to be drawn and line-drawing never satisfies everyone. My goal in this article is to convince the reader to view my line drawing optimistically – as a necessary means of bridging the gap between at-will employment and just cause.

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