The oft-cited truism that the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world which fails to provide some form of uniform "good cause" protection fails to offer any useful guidance or support. It is in fact a quite deceptive truism. In the first place, it must be noted that a comparison between the highly litigious environment of the United States and other industrialized nations, which all make very spars use of the courtroom, is a case of comparing apples and oranges. The American penchant for filing a lawsuit at the slightest provocation, which according to the American Bar Association enables 713,456 attorneys to practice law in the U.S., filing one private lawsuit for every 15 Americans (16.6 million private civil suits filed in state court every year), [52] cannot be compared with the stable environments of the other industrialized nations, especially since in these nations the courtroom loser must pay the costs of the winning party.

For example, it would be most inappropriate to compare the combative American labor environment with that of Japan. The Japanese system relies heavily on the notion of "life-time employment", but this comes in the context of weak loosely-federated unions, a strong identity of each enterprise-specific union with the corporation, and complete employee loyalty to his/her employer, with an extremely dominant preference for cooperative negotiations to solve all employee/management problems. [53]

Furthermore, "(w)hile statutes in several European countries boldly declare an employee's right not to be unfairly dismissed, labor courts applying the statutes have given very modest awards that serve principally as a balm to the employee's wounded pride." [54] The author of this quote, Professor Richard Power, points out that European courts seldom order reinstatement even in unionized employments. Another study notes that back pay is usually limited to a brief period and that short notice (of as little as 30 days) will often suffice. [55]

More ambitious employee protection laws have proven quite problematic. Great Britain, for example, established an industrial tribunal system for all claims of unjust dismissal. In 1982 alone, more than 40,000 applications were made for tribunal hearings, mostly for unjust dismissals, causing employers to complain that the system deters them from dismissing inefficient workers and from working for productivity gains. Meanwhile, labor unions are distressed by the severe inefficiency of the system. A successful claimant may be awarded up to $32,000, requiring employers to procure expensive insurance costing an average $20 per employee annually. Experts estimate that the cost to a company for defending itself at a one-day hearing, in time and legal fees, can reach $2000. [56]

In 1975, Portugal adopted a system under which nearly all dismissals must be reviewed by labor courts. The Wall Street Journal reported:

(E)mployers have found dismissals for cause difficult to prove in the courts. Workers who prevail may be reinstated with full back pay – often several years' worth – and often become sources of agitation after returning to work. Employers say that they would rather put up with absenteeism and low productivity than undergo the time and expense of the labor courts. [57]

One of the few systems of law that seems to be working without high cost and systematic damage to the economy can be found in Canada. The Province of Ontario, for example, uses the euphemism of a "reasonable notification period" to resolve discharge disputes. Using a fairly loose definition of what constitutes good cause for dismissal (focusing on legitimate business reasons), the common law of Ontario will provide for at most two years of severance pay, based on such factors as the reason for dismissal, length of service, age, market conditions for the job in question, and inducements at time of hiring. The system carefully balances limited job security protection for the employee with a strict limitation on damages. [58] Note how very similar this system is to the Draft NCC Uniform Wrongful Termination Act.

The lesson which can be derived from reference to the "rest of the Industrialized world" is thus quite contrary to what the advocates of "just cause" employment rights desire. Foreign systems work to the extent that they limit remedies and litigation opportunity. To the extent that they invite formal dispute, they create significant cost and managerial problems. Europe may in fact pull back from some of the more extreme grants of unjust discharge protection, especially with the advent of a more economically-unified European Common Market beginning in 1992. A successful system, as experienced in Ontario, requires a scrupulous balance between the interests of employees and employers. Is such a balance achievable in the litigious United States? If the answer is no, the abandonment of employment-at-will can only spell significant economic/market loss.