Employment Law

At-Will Employment

What broad categories of workers are not subject to the employment-at-will doctrine?

Workers who have an employment relationship governed by a contract called a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) generally are not subject to the employment-at-will doctrine. The CBA is a contract of the employment relationship between the workers, usually represented by a union, and the management of the employer. Workers under a CBA are not subject to the harsh rule of employment-at-will because a common goal for unions in their negotiations with management is to include a just-cause provision in the CBA, which is the governing contract that controls the parameters of the employment relationship. A just-cause clause provides that an employer shall not fire a worker except for just cause—a very good or justifiable reason.

Sometimes workers who do not work at a large plant with a collective bargaining agreement still are not subject to the employment-at-will doctrine because they have signed an employment contract. This means that a worker who has a valid employment contract is often not subject to the employment-at-will doctrine. Rather, the employee is subject to the terms and conditions of the signed contract. Most workers, however, are not protected by a specific contract. If there is not an agreement that serves as the guide to the employer-employee relationship, the default rule in many states is the employment-at-will doctrine.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Law Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App