Fired for No Good Cause: Is It Legal?

November 25, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


For a century, the legal doctrine of employment-at-will permitted American businesses to fire most employees without notice, for any cause or for no cause at all. But courts in California, Michigan and other states have changed the law in recent years, and employers have discovered that dismissing employees is not quite as easy as it used to be.

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A legal revolution has been taking place in this country, and a case now before the California Supreme Court may signal whether it is at an end—or at least at a stopping point. The revolution involves attacks on the traditional right of American employers to fire employees whenever they see fit, and the case involves a man named Daniel Foley, who, in March 1983, was fired from his job at Interactive Data Corp.

Foley had worked for Interactive Data for nearly seven years, first in Waltham. Mass., later in Los Angeles. His performance as a middle manager had been considered superior; he'd been given regular promotions and pay increases. He earned $55.164 a year and had just received a merit bonus of nearly $7,000.

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