Just Cause & Duty of Fair Dealing
Many employees believe that employers are required to retain employees unless there is “just cause” to terminate them. In the United States, however, the only employees likely to have some kind of “just cause” protection are:
- Employees with written contracts
- Union employees
- Tenured employees
- Government employees.
“Just cause” can be defined in different ways. Sometimes, it is defined simply as a reasonable basis for termination. Other times, the term is defined to permit termination only for illegal acts or failure to perform one’s job.
Fair Treatment & Duty of Fair Dealing
Often, employers will promise their employees fair treatment. These promises may be legally enforceable, whether they are made verbally or in writing. Promises made in an employee handbook may also be enforceable, depending on the language and the extent of the disclaimer provisions that may be included in the handbook.
Although courts recognize a “duty of fair dealing” with respect to the enforcement of contracts, that duty in employment contracts does not usually extend to fair treatment, absent contrary language.
Lynn D. Feiger was the first attorney to successfully argue before the Colorado Supreme Court that employee handbook promises should be enforceable in Colorado (Continental Airlines vs. Keenan). She has also represented Colorado employees in numerous cases attempting to enforce verbal and written job security promises.