Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 2–3, pp 91–104 | Cite as

The “Good Cause Norm” in Employment Relations: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications

  • Mark V. Roehling

Abstract

Critics of the American employment at-will doctrine have argued that it should be abandoned because it is at odds with a societal level norm that employees should only be discharged for good reasons (the “good cause norm”). This paper examines the extent to which there is conceptual and empirical support for the existence of such a norm. Theoretical perspectives supporting the norms existence are discussed and integrated, and an interdisciplinary review of relevant research is provided. In light of the support that is found for the existence of a good cause norm in the American workplace, it is proposed that the current employment at-will default rule be changed to a waivable employee right to be discharged for good cause only.

employment at-will employment law employee discharge good cause 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Ballam, D. A. (2000). Employment at-will: The impending death of a doctrine. American Business Law Journal, 37, 653.Google Scholar
  2. Blades, L. E. (1967). Employment at-will vs. individual freedom: On limiting the abusive exercise of employer power. Columbia Law Review, 67, 104.Google Scholar
  3. Boswell, W. R., Moynihan, L. M., Roehling, M. V., & Cavanaugh, M. A. (2001). Responsibilities in the “new employment relationship”: An empirical test of an assumed phenomenon. Journal of Managerial Issues, 13(3), 307–327.Google Scholar
  4. Callahan, E. S. (1990). Employment at will: The relationship between societal expectations and the law. American Business Law Journal, 28, 455–484.Google Scholar
  5. Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. No. 102-166, 105 Stat. 1071 (codified in different sections of 42 U.S.C., 29 U.S.C., and 2 U.S.C.).Google Scholar
  6. Eastman, W. (1997). Overestimating oneself and overlooking the law: Psychological supports for employment at will. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 10, 21–35.Google Scholar
  7. Edelman, L., B., Abraham, S., & Erlanger, H. S. (1992). Professional construction of the law: The inflated threat of wrongful discharge. Law and Society Review, 26, 47–83.Google Scholar
  8. Epstein, R. A. (1984). In defense of contract at will. University of Chicago Law Review, 51, 947–982.Google Scholar
  9. Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row & Peterson.Google Scholar
  10. Folger, R. (1993). Reactions to mistreatment at work. In Murnighan, K. (Ed.), Social Psychology in Organizations: Advances in Theory and Research, 161–183. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  11. Forbes, F. S., & Jones, I. M. (1986). A comparative, attitudinal, and analytical study of the dismissal of at-will employees without cause. Labor Law Journal, 157–166.Google Scholar
  12. Greene v. Howard University, 412 F.2d 1128 (D.C. Cir. 1969).Google Scholar
  13. Grodin, J. (1990). Toward a wrongful termination statute for California. Hastings Law Journal, 42, 135–163.Google Scholar
  14. Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1990). Experimental tests of the endowment effect and the Coase theorem. Journal of Political Economy, 98, 1325–1348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kim, P. T. (1997). Bargaining with imperfect information: A study of worker perceptions of legal protection in an at-will world. Cornell Law Review, 89, 105–155.Google Scholar
  16. Kim, P. T. (1999). Norms, learning, and law: Exploring the influences of workers' knowledge. University of Illinois Law Review, 447–515.Google Scholar
  17. Knetsch, J. L., & Sinden, J. A. (1984).Willingness to pay and compensation demanded Experimental evidence of an unexpected disparity in measures of values. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 99(3), 507–521.Google Scholar
  18. Leonard, A. S. (1988). A new common law of employment termination. North Carolina Law Review, 66, 631–686.Google Scholar
  19. Macneil, I. R. (1980). The new social contract. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Million, D. (1998). Default rules, wealth distribution, and corporate law: Employ at-will job security. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 146, 975–1041.Google Scholar
  21. Model Employment Termination Act (1991, December). 9A Labor Relations Reporter. Washington, DC: Bureau of National Affairs.Google Scholar
  22. Montanta Code Annotated (1997). 39-2-901 to 39-2-914 (originally enacted as 1987 Montana Laws 641).Google Scholar
  23. Rock, E. B., & Wachter, M. L. (1996). The enforceability of norms and the employment relationship. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 144, 1913–1952.Google Scholar
  24. Roehling, M. V., & Winters, D. (2000). Job security rights: The effects of specific policies and practices on the evaluation of employers. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 12, 25–38.Google Scholar
  25. Ross, L., Leppard, M., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self-perceptions and social perceptions: Biased attribution processes in the debriefing paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 880–892.Google Scholar
  26. Rousseau, D. M., & Anton, R. J. (1988). Fairness and implied contract obligations in job terminations: A policy capturing study. Human Performance, 1(4), 273–289.Google Scholar
  27. Rousseau, D. M., & Anton, R. J. (1991). Fairness and implied contract obligations in job terminations: The role of contributions, promises, and performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 12, 287–299.Google Scholar
  28. Rousseau, D. M., & Aquino, K. (1993). Fairness and implied contract obligations in job terminations: The role of remedies, social accounts, and procedural justice. Human Performance, 6(2), 135–149.Google Scholar
  29. Samuleson, W., & Zeckhauser, R. (1988). Status quo bias in decisionmaking. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1, 7–33.Google Scholar
  30. Schein, E. H. (1980). Organizational psychology. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  31. Schmedeman, D. A., & McLean Parks, J. (1994). Contract formation and employee handbooks: Legal, psychological, and empirical analyses. Wake Forest Law Review, 29, 647–718.Google Scholar
  32. Schwab, S. (1988). A Coasean experiment on contract presumptions. Journal of Legal Studies, 17, 237–268.Google Scholar
  33. Schwartz, A. (1992). Relational contracts in court: An analysis of incomplete agreements and judicial strategies. Journal of Legal Studies, 21, 271–318.Google Scholar
  34. Schwoerer, C., & Rosen, B. (1989). Effects of employment at-will policies and compensation polices on corporate image and job pursuit intentions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 653–656.Google Scholar
  35. Summers, C. (2000). Employment at-will in the United States: The divine right of employers. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law, 3, 65–85.Google Scholar
  36. Tompkins, J. (1988). Legislating the employment relationship: Montana's wrongful-discharge law. Employee Relations Law Journal, 14, 387–398.Google Scholar
  37. Verkerke, J. H. (1995). An empirical perspective on indefinite term contracts: Resolving the just cause debate. Wisconsin Law Review, 4, 837–918.Google Scholar
  38. Wayland, R. F., Clay, J. M., & Payne, P. L. (1993). Employment at will statements: Perceptions of job applicants. International Journal of Manpower, 14, 22–33.Google Scholar
  39. Witt, J. F. (1999). Rethinking the nineteenth-century employment contract, again. Law and History Review, 18, 627–657.Google Scholar
  40. Workers Readjustment and Retraining Notification Act (1994). 29 U.S.C., Sections 2101–2109.Google Scholar
  41. Youngblood, S. A., Trevino, L. K., & Favia, M. (1992). Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 5, 283–307.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark V. Roehling
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Labor and Industrial RelationsMichigan State UniversityEast Lansing

Personalised recommendations