Professional Construction of Law: The Inflated Threat of Wrongful Discharge

39 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2014

See all articles by Lauren B. Edelman

Lauren B. Edelman

University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program and Center for the Study of Law and Society

Steven E. Abraham

State University of New York at Oswego - School of Business

Howard S. Erlanger

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: September 24, 2014

Abstract

Institutional theories of organizational behavior consistently implicate the professions in explaining the diffusion of new organizational practices, yet there has been little empirical study of precisely what role the professions play. We address that issue by exploring the role of the personnel and legal professions in shaping employers' understandings of law and the threat posed by law. We focus on the implied contract theory of wrongful discharge,a recent common law development that allows employees - under a limited set of circumstances - to sue their employers when they are fired without good cause. We first present an analysis of the actual risk posed by the implied contract theory, based on a survey of published cases in six states. Then, by analyzing articles in professional personnel and Jaw journals, we reveal a striking disparity between the actual threat posed by implied contract theory and the threat as constructed by personnel and legal professionals. Our findings support the argument that the professions play an important role in the diffusion of organizational practices and suggest that the professions' constructions of the environment may critically affect how employers respond to environmental threats.

Keywords: Wrongful Discharge

Suggested Citation

Edelman, Lauren B. and Abraham, Steven E. and Erlanger, Howard S., Professional Construction of Law: The Inflated Threat of Wrongful Discharge (September 24, 2014). 26 Law & Society Review 47 (1992); Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1298. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2500940 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2500940

Lauren B. Edelman

University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program and Center for the Study of Law and Society ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-642-4038 (Phone)
510-643-6171 (Fax)

Steven E. Abraham (Contact Author)

State University of New York at Oswego - School of Business ( email )

316 Rich Hall
Oswego, NY 13126
United States
315-312-3307 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.oswego.edu/~abraham/

Howard S. Erlanger

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.wisc.edu/facstaff/biog.php?iID=266

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