What is Just Cause?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Just cause is a good reason for engaging in a given action. This legal term is often used in the context of employment law although it can also come up in other situations. In cases where people are required to meet the just cause standard, someone may have grounds for a suit if the standard is not met. A court will hear the matter and decide whether or not someone acted with just cause in a particular instance.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

When determining whether or not someone acted with just cause, a court considers the behavior of the mythical “reasonable person” in the same situation. In cases where there are questions about a professional's behavior, the standard involves asking what a similar professional would do, rather than what an average person would do. The court may determine that a reasonable person would have behaved in exactly the same way, in which case the standard is met. If the court finds that a reasonable person would have behaved differently, it may find that just cause was not present and that someone behaved inappropriately.

In employment law, where it is also known as bare sagen, just cause is a burden of proof that employers must meet before taking disciplinary action against employees. It is a form of job security, as employers are required to demonstrate why they are taking disciplinary action before they can do so and they cannot terminate employment at will. Employers must warn employees about actions that can result in discipline such as employment termination. If an employer cannot meet this standard, the employee can sue for wrongful termination.

Courts recognize that the standard of just cause is dependent on a number of factors. These include not just the standards of the workplaces, but those of similar workplaces. In addition, courts weigh community standards of behavior. The area where a workplace is located can determine what kind of behavior is appropriate. Evidence can be presented by both sides to support or undermine the claim that the employer acted with just cause.

In the law in general, just cause is a standard that can come up in numerous types of legal cases. It is also known as good or sufficient cause and when it is present in a case, it shows that someone acted with good faith. Failure to demonstrate just cause can expose people to liability for their actions. As with cases in which a court is trying an employment-related matter, a number of factors are considered when determining whether or not someone acted reasonably in a given situation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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