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Contractual Language that can Inadvertently Destroy “At-Will” Employment: Spacesaver Sys., Inc. v. Adam (2014)

Recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals discussed a new restraint on the State’s “at-will” employment doctrine, one that is triggered by language commonly found in employment agreements.  Specifically, the Court held that an employment contract clause providing that the employee could be terminated “for-cause,” negates the presumption of at-will employment, thereby precluding an employer from later terminating the employee without cause.  The Court reasoned that the inclusion of a “for cause” provision meant that the employer and employee reasonably expected and mutually assented to some degree of job security.  Moreover, this restriction exists even if the employment agreement does not expressly set forth employment for a definite term.  In such cases, the language establishes a “continuous for-cause” employment relationship, although it does not go so far as to establish a “lifetime contract” of employment.  

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