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Wilkes v. Springside Nursing Home, employment at-will, employment contracts


This Article begins by introducing the doctrine of employment at-will and its contemporary operation, and applying the doctrine to the facts in Wilkes. The point of the exercise is making clear the impact of Wilkes from the standpoint of employment law. The Article next turns to scholarship examining the at-will rule as a default rule and the circumstances under which a default rule may become sticky. Against this background, the Article concludes by reexamining the holding in Wilkes along with subsequent developments in Massachusetts and other jurisdictions. These include the implications of buy-sell and comparable provisions in shareholder agreements. In the situations to which the Wilkes doctrine applies in Massachusetts and elsewhere, at-will is more likely to be a sticky default than in many other employment relationships. Several factors contribute to this conclusion, perhaps most strongly the imponderable (or un-pondered) question of how effective control over the corporation’s decision-making may shift in the future.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Labor contract, Employment at will, Corporation law, Minority stockholders