Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In Colorado, labor unions are trying to change the rules. The Rocky Mountain News reports that a coalition backed by labor organizations is trying to get a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would eliminate Colorado's at-will employment system and require just cause for all terminations. Under this "just cause" initiative, employers would be restricted from firing or suspending an employee unless the employer can prove incompetence, policy violations, willful misconduct, conviction of a crime involving "moral turpitude," employer bankruptcy, or economic circumstances that provide for layoffs of 10% of the workforce.
This measure is exactly the type that could gain popular support, and would alter the landscape of employer/employee relations in this country if it catches hold. It's not so much that it will restrict reasons for termination, although that would be a problem. Most businesses (or at least those that want to retain good employees) do not terminate arbitrarily, but only for a good reason.
Three quick reactions: I don't believe that employers only fire employees usually for good reasons. I guess that is why Jon is still a management attorney and I no longer am.
Second, I would prefer that just cause provisions be set up as a default rule which parties can contract around. In other words, employers would have to give employees extra consideration to make them at will.
Third, is this what the labor movement really wants? If Colorado employees have a constitutional right to just cause protection, does that not take away some of the impetus for wanting to organize a union?
In any event, I cannot imagine the Chamber of Commerce, NAM, etc., letting this go by without a very significant challenge. In other words, don't hold your breath.