Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Public Policy Exception to Employment at Will: Time to Retire a Noble Warrior?

47 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2009  

Kenneth Swift

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: February 5, 2009


This article addresses the current state of, and continuing need for, the public policy exception to the rule of employment at will. The article begins by briefly reviewing the history of employment at will and the development of statutory exceptions, such as state and federal civil rights acts. The article then analyzes the development of the public policy exception and its significant role in providing many of the protections provided today to at will employees, such as protection of constitutional and statutory rights, and whistle blower protection and how the use of the exception led to statutory codification of these protections. Next, a detailed factual and legal analysis of numerous public policy exception opinions in cases factually outside of those statutory protections is provided, analyzing the malleability of the exception. Finally, the article argues that the public policy exception in its current state has all live its usefulness and now threatens to engulf the long-standing doctrine of employment at will.

Keywords: employment at will, public policy exception

JEL Classification: K31

Suggested Citation

Swift, Kenneth, The Public Policy Exception to Employment at Will: Time to Retire a Noble Warrior? (February 5, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth Swift (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views