Is ‘Employment at Will’ a
Good Social Policy?
By: Courtney Thompson
and Zane Crownover
‘Employment at Will’
is a Good Social
Whatcha Talkin’ Bout Willis?
Employment at Will:
Employment relationship where either
employee or employer can terminate the
relationship without liability; provided:
there was no express contract for a definite
term governing the employment
and/or the employer does not belong to a
recognized bargaining group, like a union.
In Your Shoes
Economic Status vs. Job Preference
Employee Viewpoint vs. Employer
“Freedom is Good”
Individual liberty comparable to freedom of speech,
religion, or selection of marriage partners.
Where does the desire to choose one’s own employment
fall? In comparison to other rights such as voting?
Government regulation is inappropriate for personal,
political, religious activities…
Little old lady swindled by man
with thin mustache
Good intentions- Bad idea
Vast majority of people affected-
Competent enough for voting,
marrying, pray, but not choose
Employees usually aren’t dropped cold
In most contracts the employer is required to either give
notice or pay damages in lieu of notice
Damages paid often equal the wages the employee would have
earned during the notice period.
The provisions for severance pay allow for employees to have
some sort additional protection against discharge without
sacrificing a clean break between parties.
Gradually Getting Worse
Employees are proven to often times fail to improve at
work expectations, and this can turn into a worse
performance as time progresses, and people become
more comfortable in the work place. Tenure does not
always mean productivity.
Contract at will- cost much much lower than
Effort for a ‘for-cause’ rule will allow all, or most,
dismissals to generate litigation
Knowing What You Don’t Know
We understand that we don’t know what the future
Contract at will- allows to wait and see what happens,
and the chance to deal with it accordingly
“You can start Tuesday, and we’ll see how the job works
Importance- ‘Contract at Will’ does not trump or justify
firing employees for:
for refusing to commit illegal acts
family or medical leave
Not following own termination procedures
Many cases that go to court are due from this.
Power of the Problem People
Barriers are crossed
personal unethical attributes to people in power
The problem is not within the governmental laws or
regulations, it is within the people that are in the
positions, and no government law will change their
personalities or moral structure.
Rebutting the Rebuttal
Employment at Will vs. Just Cause
The empirical prediction of productivity losses with Just
Cause is not supported by the evidence
While there might be no evidence, the strength of EAW
shouldn’t be judged by the occasional cases in which it is said
to produce unfortunate results.
The economic arguments based on ideal market analyses
are fraught with difficulties
Changing laws based on a market or economy would not be
beneficial in the long term because the economy is always
changing and the Constitution is supposed to serve long term
Rebutting the Rebuttal
The appeals to property or contract right are insufficient
to trump the claimed right of employees to freedom
from arbitrary dismissal.
1) The statement is a matter of opinion, not fact
2) Employees entering into workforce should know from the
beginning whether a Contract at Will is being utilized, or if
there is a different termination process. By accepting the job,
they accept the terms.
John McCall- Europe
Simple Speak for the
1. We have freedoms; this is one.
2. If you don’t like your job; you should be able to quit.
3. If you don’t like your employee’s; you should be able
to fire them.
4. If you fire me, I would not mind at all being paid for
the amount of work I missed in the dismissal period.
5. I like you today, maybe not tomorrow.
i.e. Long term contracts no bueno
Simple Speak for the
6. I don’t think you should know that working here was
my 42nd choice for employment; nor should you know
that I plan on leaving if options 1-41 will hire me in the
7. If you fire someone without following your own
rules about termination, do not be surprised to find
yourself in court.
8. This isn’t Europe.
9. Employment at Will- Vote Yes
Epstein, Richard A. 1984. “University of Chicago Law
Review.” issue: Fall 1984.