St. Mary's Law Journal


Jason P. Lemons


Since its inception, Texas has been a favored destination for both up-start entrepreneurs and established corporations. One of the less heralded, but nonetheless significant factors that makes Texas so attractive to businesses is its long-standing devotion to the doctrine of at-will employment. The doctrine generally states that any employment relationship not governed by contract or a statutory provision is terminable at any time by either the employer or the employee for any reason or no reason at all. At-will employment has been praised by courts and commentators for the flexibility it offers both parties in decision making. Nevertheless, the at-will doctrine is not without its detractors. At-will employment has been widely criticized for the sweeping power it grants employers over employees. In a time when employee rights are already compromised by the at-will doctrine, random drug testing erodes privacy interests and further widens the power chasm between employer and worker to alarming levels. Mission Petroleum Carriers, Inc. v. Solomon, highlights the danger this inequality poses to workers who submit to drug screening. The Texas Supreme Court held that an employer administering a drug test mandated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) did not owe a duty of reasonable care to his employee, despite the fact that the test, as conducted by the supervisor, violated a number of DOT regulations. The at-will doctrine shielded the employer from having to exercise any level of care when conducting the test, thus protecting the employer from any consequences arising from negligence. This adherence to at-will principles may protect the interests of Texas businesses, but in this case, it also imposed significant harm on the employee, who is now unable to find employment in his chosen line of work and has no legal recourse, despite the errors committed by the employer in administering the test.


St. Mary's University School of Law