What is Just Cause?

Did the employer, before administering guidance to an employee


What is Just Cause?

Without a union, employees are “at will” employees, meaning they can be fired without just cause. Working under a union contract changes that, giving people workplace rights. But what, exactly, is just cause? Answering “No” to any of these  questions normally means the employer does not have just and proper cause.

Did the employer provide forewarning?

Was the employee given forewarning or foreknowledge of the possible or probable disciplinary consequences of their conduct? The warning may be given orally or in printed form. An exception may be made for certain conduct (I.e., insubordination, coming to work chemically impared, drinking on the job, or stealing company property).

Was it a reasonable rule?   

Was the employer’s rule or managerial order reasonably related to (a) the orderly, efficient, and safe operation of the company’s business, and (b) the performance that the employer might properly expect of the employee?

Did the employer investigate? 

Did the employer, before administering guidance to an employee, make an effort to discover whether the employee did, in fact, violate or disobey a rule or order of management? The investigation normally should be made before the decision to discipline is made. However, there are immediate action is required, the best course of action is to suspend the employee pending investigation with the understanding that the worker will be reinstated and paid for lost time if there is no basis for punishment.

What is Just Cause?

Was the investigation fair?

Was the company’s investigation conducted fairly and objectively?

Did the “judge” find proof?

At the investigation, did the “judge” obtain substantial evidence or proof that the employee was guilty as charged? It is not required that the evidence be conclusive or “beyond a reasonable doubt,” except where the alleged misconduct is of such criminal or reprehensible nature as to stigmatize the employee and seriously impair their chances for future employment.

Are all employees being treated fairly?

Has the company applied its rules, orders, and penalties evenhandedly and without discrimination to all employees? If enforcement has been lax in the past, management can’t suddenly reverse its course and begin cracking down without first warning employees of its intent.

Is the penalty appropriate?

Was the degree of discipline administered by the company reasonably related to (a) the seriousness of the employee’s proven offense, and (b) the record of the employee in his/her service with the company? If the employee A’s past record is significantly better than Employee B’s, the company may properly punish Employee A more lightly than Employee B for the same offense.

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