Employment at Will: A State-by-State Survey, With 2015 Cumulative Supplement

This treatise provides a comprehensive analysis of the employment-at-will doctrine in every state. The desk reference uses the same set of topics for each state, facilitating both comparative and single-state research. It is a powerful tool for practitioners articulating their arguments using analogies and examples from the laws of other states. 

Melinda J. Caterine


GET DETAILED ANALYSIS of state law causes of action for wrongful termination

Employment at Will: A State-by-State Survey provides a comprehensive analysis of the employment at will doctrine, as well as the many exceptions recognized by the courts. The doctrine serves as the foundation for legal analysis of the employment relationship in the U.S., and nearly all states recognize it in some form—and then apply their own set of unique exceptions to it. This treatise uses the same set of topics for each state to provide a comparative view across states, as well as to allow for research on an individual state. This format is extremely helpful for lawyers who practice in multiple jurisdictions, as well as for lawyers who practice primarily in a single jurisdiction, particularly when they wish to argue by analogy or example from the laws of another state. Each state chapter provides analysis of the following topics:

  • The creation of enforceable employment agreements through (i) employee handbooks or other written personnel policies and (ii) oral assurances
  • Common law claims for wrongful discharge
  • The covenant of good faith and fair dealing in express and implied employment contracts
  • The public policy exception to the doctrine of employment at will
  • The burden of proof necessary to sustain a claim of wrongful discharge
  • What constitutes “just cause” for purposes of termination
  • The effect of disclaimers on the employment at will relationship
  • Potential damages in a wrongful discharge claim
  • Related tort claims arising out of the employment relationship
  • State statues that prohibit termination based on certain protected classifications  

Supplement Information  

The 2015 Cumulative Supplement includes the following:

  • California—discrimination lawsuit may be pursued even though employee presented false work authorization documents to order to obtain employment
  • Florida—employer in the process of winding down its business may be held liable for additional compensation where it gave at-will employees assurances of future compensation if they did not resign
  • Illinois—employer violated a specific-duration contract by terminating employee for inadequate performance when level of performance was not a term in the contract
  • Michigan—breach of contract claims have been dismissed based on disclaimers in retirement plan booklets
  • New Jersey—“yearly review” did not transform public employee’s at-will status into guaranteed employment and did not convey “property right” triggering due process protections
  • Virginia—public policy exception to employment at will only extends to claims for discharge and not for claims of wrongful discipline




Bloomberg BNA authors and editors are practicing professionals with insider perspectives and real-life experience. Learn more about this book’s authors and editors.
Melinda J. Caterine is a partner at the Portland, Maine and Boston offices of Littler Mendelson P.C., a national labor and employment firm representing management.

Employment Rights and Responsibilities Committee,   ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law


View full tables of contents and read the book’s preface or introduction.