CSWJ Member Donald C. Carroll Writes Challenging Article on “At-Will Employment”

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS CONFIDENT that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. The history of the at-will doctrine in employment law is an example of this arc, as the nationwide jurisprudence moves away from the doctrine and towards a more just social compact. This Article argues that the at-will doctrine is immoral
and that it is time for the common law to reject it.

Part I examines the historical nature and the roots of the at-will doctrine, as many articles before have done. Part II looks at the economic and contractual foundation of the at-will doctrine. Part III describes the exceptions to the at-will doctrine, which demonstrate the movement towards its rejection. This movement has resulted from the recognition of the at-will doctrine’s moral weakness. Part IV examines the immorality of the remaining vestiges of the doctrine. Part V demonstrates the ability of the common law to eliminate this doctrine.

This Article primarily utilizes the moral language of the 1986 Pastoral Letter of the American Catholic Bishops, Economic justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, as a basis for critiquing the at-will doctrine.

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