The Employment at Will doctrine was implemented in 1905. The doctrine defines the relationship between an employer and employee, but who benefits more from the doctrines existence and is it still applicable in today’s society? This paper will focus on the benefits of the doctrine for the employer and employee, while defining the three major exceptions and various employee protections, which limit the employer’s rights. The research showed that there are benefits for both the employer and the employee within the framework of the document. However, the document does not benefit either party more than the other and use of the document is applicable in today’s society. The author concluded that even though Employment at Will does exist and you can technically terminate or quit at will, it is in the best interest of employers and employees to work with an understanding of mutual respect, honesty, good faith, and fair dealing.
The Employment at Will doctrine has been around for more than one hundred years. The purpose of the doctrine is to define the relationship between the employer and the employee and to allow the dissolution of employment by either party at any time. Although, major changes have occurred to the doctrine since its inception in 1905, many of which protect the employee from exploitations by an employer, there are still changes occurring to the document today. The purpose of this paper is to get a better understanding of the doctrine and to determine who benefits more the employer or the employee, if either, from its continuation. This research will provide the reader with the information necessary to not only have a basic understanding of the doctrine, but to be able to determine if the doctrine is applicable in today’s society. History
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the employer/employee relationship was like a master/servant relationship. The master cared for the servant, disciplined the servant, when needed, and employed the servant for an indefinite time, or until there was “just cause” to terminate employment. When social and economic changes occurred, so did the employer/employee relationship. The foundation for the Employment at Will doctrine came from H.G. Wood’s Treatise on the law of master and servant in 1877. The doctrine states that without a contract specifying a duration for employment, the hiring is at-will and can be terminated at any time, by either party. In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court supported the Employment at Will concept, and it was given the same status as a constitutional right. In 1908, the issue was again brought before the Supreme Court, when employees wanted to form unions when the workers did not have an agreement with a specific duration for employment. The courts upheld the earlier ruling, stating that either employer or employee could terminate employment for any reason. In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was enacted to prohibit the termination of employees in retaliation for forming union activities. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were many federal laws passed which provided more employee rights. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects employees from being discharged based on race, color, sex, national origin, or religion. In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act passed, which protects employees from being dismissed due to age. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the handicapped from discrimination and wrongful termination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Immigration Reform Act, and provisions within the Americans with Disabilities Act are just a few of the other acts, which have also provided additional protections to employees, limited employers power, and protected employees from labor mistreatments. Although an employer cannot terminate an employee because of race, gender, age, national origin, religion or any other attribute protected by the constitution or subsequent acts, there are only...
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