Just Cause Law & Legal Definition


Just cause means a legally sufficient reason. Just cause is sometimes referred to as good cause, lawful cause or sufficient cause. A litigant must often prove to a court that just cause exists and therefore the requested action or ruling should be granted.

Just cause, in the employment context, refers to the employer's right to discipline or terminate employees for misconduct or negligence. In many states employers must at least show just cause for terminating you. For example, if an employer punished an employee without just cause, a Court can order the employer to compensate the worker. Just cause is legal jargon for a legitimate business reason, such as wrongdoing on the employee's part. Just cause is often a matter of interpretation by the courts or arbitrators.

Some of the factors that may be examined to determine whether just cause existed for a disciplinary action or firing include:

  1. Did the company warn the worker in advance of taking action?
  2. Is there a clearly communicated work rule which covers the conduct and which is reasonable and related to the orderly, efficient and safe operation of the employer’s business?
  3. Did the employer investigate before taking action?
  4. Was the investigation fair and objective? Does the supervisor serve as prosecutor, judge and witness all rolled into one?
  5. Is there substantial evidence that the worker is guilty?
  6. Has the employer been fair and even-handed in its enforcement of the rule(s) in question? Is there "disparate treatment?"
  7. Was the degree of discipline related to the seriousness of the worker’s offense and worker’s prior work record.

In the context of child custody, just cause for an action can refer to an act done in the best interest of a child. When a person keeps children away from a parent or guardian who has custody over the children, it may amount to custodial interference and can be considered a crime. But if just cause can be proved, then it may not amount to a crime. Just cause in that context might be reasons such as fear of injury to the child or anything in the best interest of the child. If a parent is found, unfit or incompetent then court can by the principle of just cause in the best interest of the child, limit visitation, remove from custody or terminate a parental right.

Utah Code Ann. § 78-3a-402 reads as follows:

(1) This part provides a judicial process for voluntary and involuntary severance of the parent-child relationship, designed to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties concerned and promote their welfare and that of the state.

(2) Wherever possible family life should be strengthened and preserved, but if a parent is found, by reason of his conduct or condition, to be unfit or incompetent based upon any of the grounds for termination described in this part, the court shall then consider the welfare and best interest of the child of paramount importance in determining whether termination of parental rights shall be ordered.