An employer can modify the at-will relationship. An employer can agree to terminate an employee only for "just cause." Many employers agree to do so so for key employees. But, how does an employer modify the at-will status of an employee? in Crystal City v. Palacios, 2012 WL 1431354 (Tex.App. San Antonio 201012) (not for pubication), the employer made "just cause" one of its policies. The just cause policy appeared to apply to all employees. The policy provided that an employee would only be fired for just cause. The San Antonio Court of Appeals, found that language was not binding on the employer. The policy was too general, said the court. The court relied on another decision, Montgomery County Hosp. Dist. v. Brown, 965 S.W.2d 501, 502 (Tex. 1998). But, the Brown decision was different. In Brown, the Texas Supreme Court found that an oral promise to terminate for just cause could not modify the at-will doctrine. In the Palacios decision, the policy is in writing.
Indeed, the Palacios decision conflicts directly with County of Dallas v. Wiland, 216 S.W.3d 344 (Tex. 2007), where the Texas Supreme Court found that a written policy of Just cause would modify the at-will status of an employee.
The San Antonio Court of Appeals designated its decision as not for publication. That designation is supposed to mean the court believes the decision only applies to this one specific fact situation and should not apply to other situations. The decision will not appear in the official reporter of court decisions. But, in these days of ready access to Westlaw, not appearing in Southwestern Reporter does not mean much. See the Palacios decision here.