The common law doctrine of “employment at will” has dominated U.S. employment law for over a century. Pursuant to this concept, an employer may discharge an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all. An employee may similarly resign at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all. Despite the rule’s facial even-handedness, it operates against the background of “the deeply rooted conception of the employment relation as a dominant-servient relation rather than one of mutual rights and obligations.” Within that relationship, “the employer [has] the right to impose any requirement on the employee, give any order and insist on obedience, [and] change any term of employment,” backed by the ultimate right to “discard the employee at any time.” Not content with the domination they already enjoy under this arrangement, employers have sought to enhance their control by placing restrictions and conditions on the very element that makes at-will employment mutually beneficial and protects workers from employer coercion: The right to quit.
Stuart Lichten and Eric M. Fink,
“Just When I Thought I Was Out . . . .”: Post-Employment Repayment Obligations,
25 Wash. & Lee J. Civ. Rts. & Soc. Just. 51
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/crsj/vol25/iss1/5