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What does "Good Cause" Mean?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Good cause is a legal concept that may be applied in many different ways. In essence, good cause is the determination of a deciding body that a person or organization had justifiable reasons for a certain action. To a certain extent, good cause is a subjective concept that may rely on the opinion of a judge, jury, or other deciding body, rather than an exact legal definition.

One of the most common situations for a good cause argument to be raised is in regards to termination of employment. In most jurisdictions, an employer cannot simply fire an employee for no reason. Instead, it must be verified that a relevant and reasonable justification exists in order for a worker to be fired. Firing without cause is a frequent reason for wrongful termination lawsuits.

Ensuring that managers and other personnel with the right to fire employees follow a good cause verification process can help protect a company from wrongful termination lawsuits. While the exact reasons that constitute just cause for termination may vary, some common examples include poor performance, excessive leave or absences, or economic downturn that required layoffs. Reasons for firing that might be considered unjustified and without cause might include racial or sexual discrimination, whistleblowing, or discovery of personal issues that do not affect work performance.

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Landlord and tenant relationships can also involve issues where good cause is in question. A landlord, for instance, has a justifiable reason to request a credit check or personal information from prospective tenants, whereas a neighbor may not. In situations where eviction is threatened or anticipated, most jurisdictions also require that the landlord have good cause for serving an eviction notice. Justifiable reasons to evict a tenant might include failure to pay rent or the tenant's perpetration of a crime on the property. Unjustifiable reasons might include wanting to rent the unit to a friend or relative after the lease has already been signed.

In some cases, courts may alter normal proceedings if good cause can be shown. When a statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit expires, for instance, a judge might choose to allow a case if the plaintiff has a very good reason for missing the deadline. Statute of limitations extensions are sometimes related to the cause of discovery, which means that the plaintiff did not discover the crime until after the statute of limitations had passed. Another reason for an extension might be inability to pursue legal action due to a military posting overseas, or because of a severe illness.

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