Although almost every collective bargaining agreement permits the employer to discipline an employee for "just cause," the concept of just cause is not well understood. Rather than leading to fair and consistent resolutions of disciplinary disputes, the concept, as applied in arbitration proceedings, has led to inconsistent results that fail to serve the interests of either management or labor. This article develops a systematic theory of just cause in employee discipline cases by exploring the fundamental understanding of the employment relationship and the effect of the collective bargaining agreement on the fundamental understanding. It presents a model of just cause, identifying the components of the employee's obligation to provide satisfactory work, management's objectives for imposing discipline, and the union's objective of achieving fairness in discipline administration. By illustrating the application of the theory, the article demonstrates the value of a principled approach to just cause-employers and employees can better shape their day-to-day conduct, and arbitrators can more consistently honor the expectations of the parties.

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