Washington Law Review


American courts developed the employment-at-will doctrine during the post-Civil War period of industrial and commercial expansion. Under that doctrine, either an employer or an employee could terminate an employment contract for any reason, good or bad. In the early 1980s, state supreme courts increasingly recognized exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine to provide greater job protection for employees. In creating those exceptions, state courts have manipulated and stretched traditional legal doctrine to camouflage their reformist program. But that camouflage which facilitated changes in the law now often obscures the original reason for departing from the employment-at-will doctrine. Some state courts, including the Supreme Court of Washington, have lost sight of the original objective of providing adequate job protection and base their decisions on doctrinal technicalities. The Author suggests that courts should abandon the camouflage of traditional legal doctrine and give explicit recognition to a rule requiring just cause for termination of employment.

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