Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hill, Marvin F.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Management


Employees--Dismissal of--Law and legislation--United States; Arbitration; Industrial--United States


This thesis explores the employment "at will" doctrine. It is contended that the at will doctrine, which essentially holds that employees may be discharged at the will of their employer, has been rescinded to a great degree by statutes, contracts and judicial activism. This rescission, however, has not been complete. The majority of American workers are still employed at will, therefore subject to discharge for good reasons, bad reasons or no reason. The analysis begins with an exploration of the development of the at will rule in America under common law. It is hypothesized that the at will rule was founded on unsupporting cases and flourished in a period of laissez-faire socio-economic thought. The limitations to the at will rule are examined next. Statutes have been enacted limiting the absolute power of employers' to discharge, most notably on the bases of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, and union activity. Collective bargaining agreements and the arbitral application of "just cause" principles for discipline have further limited the at will rule. More recently, judicial interpretation of the employment contract has carved out "public policy," "whistleblowing" and "bad-faith" exceptions to the at will rule. These limitations, while helpful for protecting workers from "unjust" dismissal, are not sufficient to accord adequate job protection to workers. Statutes which protect workers in foreign countries from "unjust" dismissal are also examined. The purpose of this particular investigation is to demonstrate that America is lacking when compared to other countries in protecting employees from unjust dismissal. The thesis concludes with a recommended statute to protect the majority of American workers from "unjust" dismissal by incorporating the arbitral principles of "just cause," statutory schemes present in other American employment legislation, and ideas formulated in foreign statutes.


Includes bibliographical references.


122 pages




Northern Illinois University

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