St. Mary's Law Journal


Under a traditional approach of the at-will rule, if an employer hires an employee for an indefinite term then the employer may terminate the employee at will. Modification of the at-will rule has gained widespread support throughout the country. A majority of states now follow the progressive view, which allows the employment manual to become part of the labor contract, thereby obligating employers to abide by manual provisions. The progressive view maintains that an employee’s continued service after an employer issues a manual, constitutes ample consideration to make the document binding. Once a court recognizes the existence of independent consideration, an employee can show a binding contract was made by using unilateral, bilateral or estoppel contract principles. This progressive position is reformatory because it found the additional consideration the traditional approach believed to be lacking and has reevaluated its contract analysis accordingly. Texas courts currently reject the progressive view of the handbook exception for only one reason: adherence to precedent. However, the need for which the at-will rule was originally created has changed, and the general rule no longer provides a satisfactory resolution to current employment problems such as the handbook or public policy considerations. Upholding this outdated precedent may lead to inequitable decisions, as evidenced by decisions of jurisdictions which still follow the traditional interpretation of the employment at-will rule. Further, the Texas Supreme Court recognized the need to amend employment at-will theory by creating one narrow exception to the general rule. The situation in Texas is ripe for the handbook exception. All that remains now is for a case to arise where the courts may adopt the progressive view and establish new precedent.


St. Mary's University School of Law