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The Costs of Wrongful-Discharge Laws


  • David H. Autor
  • John J. Donohue
  • Stewart J. Schwab


We estimate the effects on employment and wages of wrongful-discharge protections adopted by U.S. state courts during the last three decades. We find robust evidence that one wrongful-discharge doctrine, the implied-contract exception, reduced state employment rates by 0.8% to 1.7%. The initial impact is largest for female and less-educated workers (those who change jobs frequently), while the longer-term effect is greater for older and more-educated workers (those most likely to litigate). By contrast, we find no robust employment or wage effects of two other widely recognized wrongful-discharge laws: the public-policy and goodfaith exceptions. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & John J. Donohue & Stewart J. Schwab, 2006. "The Costs of Wrongful-Discharge Laws," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 211-231, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:88:y:2006:i:2:p:211-231

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    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand


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