Potential impact of proposed "just cause" legislation on discipline and discharge procedures in nonunion firms

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


"Just cause" legislation, refers to any local, state, or national law which would provide, to all workers, protection from arbitrary and capricious termination from employment. Under such a law, employers could be required to establish just or reasonable cause for discharging an employee. Such legislation has been proposed, but not enacted, in several states. The purpose of the research was to determine the probable impact of just cause legislation on the discipline and discharge procedures of nonunion, private sector employers if such legislation is enacted.

A review of just cause legislative proposals was conducted in order to determine what standards of just cause would be required under such laws. Since every proposal favored the use of arbitration to resolve discharge disputes, model standards of procedural just cause were derived from arbitration decisions and literature written by arbitrators and other labor authorities.

A sample of nonunion, private sector manufacturing firms in Virginia was surveyed with a mailed questionnaire in order to identify employers' current procedures for disciplining and discharging employees. After an analysis of the results of the survey, conclusions were drawn based on a comparison of the survey results to the model standards of just cause.

In general, it was concluded that if just cause legislation is enacted employers would need to: undertake a better investigation of mitigating circumstances prior to taking disciplinary action, provide more consistent enforcement and application of rules, and improve the overall formality and documentation of discipline and discharge procedures and actions.