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Application of the Doctrine

The employment at will doctrine contains three major rules. The first general rule is that an employer is not liable for any alleged damages suffered by an employee who is fired arbitrarily. Until courts in the1980s began to recognize exceptions to the at-will doctrine (see below), the courts generally refused to award damages to discharged employees, even in situations where the employer did not follow its own procedures or where the employer acted with malice. The second general rule is that an employee who alleges that his or her employment contract was for a specified term has the burden of proving that the contract was for a defined term. The third general rule is that a court will construe an employment contract for an indefinite period of time, including a contract for “permanent” employment, to mean that the employment relationship is at will.

Inside Application of the Doctrine