Washington Law Review


Over the past twenty years, the concept of employment at will has been eroded through exceptions permitting employees to sue employers for wrongful discharge under various theories. One such theory, implied-in-fact contract, grants employees the ability to sue based on promises made in employee handbooks. Although forty-seven states allow such claims, their legal analyses have been murky and varied. The reasons for this ambiguity are twofold. First, courts still feel compelled by the looming presence of employment at will to base exceptions on traditional theories of contract law. Second, the role of disclaimers has not been precisely defined. This Comment clarifies implied-in-fact contract analysis and offers a solution to the above problems. It states the test that the courts actually use in employee handbook claims-the reasonable expectations of the employee-and lays out the main factors to be examined in such a test. It then argues that the reasonable expectations test should be adopted free from the confines of traditional theories of law.

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