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Labor and Employment Law

A Simple Solution To Unjust At-Will Laws

Most employers can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. As I say in my upcoming book, that means they can fire you because they didn't like your shoes that day. Or, as it turns out, the color of your shirt.

The law definitely needs to change. This appalling situation could happen to anyone. In all but one state (Montana) you can be fired because your boss didn't like your shirt or your shoes that day or because they're in a bad mood. And in this country, unlike most civilized countries, our health insurance is tied to our jobs. So you can lose both your job and health insurance coverage for your family and yourself, all because your boss was in a bad mood.

Then, to add insult to injury, our tax dollars pay for the cost of unemployment compensation and the side-effects of unemployment, all because your boss had a hissy fit one day and fired you without just cause.

I would suggest that there's a solution that might help alleviate some of the huge societal burden, as well as the burden on individuals, that is cause by the reality of at-will employment. Every state in the nation already has a set of hearing examiners or referees who hear unemployment cases. If the employee is fired for misconduct, they don't get to collect. But what about the employer who fires without just cause? Why not give the unemployment hearing officers one more power: the power to reinstate with back pay.

Why should taxpayers have to pay because someone was in a bad mood and fired an employee? Why shouldn't they have to pay for their own folly? If they don't want to reinstate, then they can pay the employee's full salary for the entire length of time they would have collected unemployment.

So, constant readers, tell me. Why won't this work? Why shouldn't we impose as much burden on employers who terminate without just cause as we impose on employees who are fired for misconduct?

If you like my solution, tell your state legislators and members of Congress. If you think I'm wrong, gripe away. I'd love to hear from you.

See more employment law posts on Donna Ballman's blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home

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