Define: Justa Causa

Justa Causa
Justa Causa
Quick Summary of Justa Causa

Justa causa, a Latin term used in civil law, denotes a legitimate basis or a fair cause. It signifies a reason that holds legal weight and can lead to liability or the initiation of a legal action. In the context of employment law, it pertains to a valid reason for termination. In simpler terms, justa causa implies having a lawful justification for engaging in an action.

What is the dictionary definition of Justa Causa?
Dictionary Definition of Justa Causa

Justa causa is a term derived from Latin that is used in civil law to denote a lawful ground or a just cause. It signifies a reason that possesses legal validity in order to take action or hold an individual accountable for an occurrence or outcome. For instance, within an employment contract, justa causa can be employed to indicate a legally valid reason for terminating an employee. If an employee violates a company policy or engages in misconduct, the employer may possess justa causa to terminate their employment. This instance exemplifies how justa causa serves as a lawful ground for taking action. In this particular scenario, the employer possesses a just cause for terminating the employee’s contract due to their violation of a company policy. Similarly, in a negligence case, justa causa can be used to refer to a cause that possesses legal validity and can result in liability. If a driver causes an accident as a result of reckless driving, they may be held accountable for the damages caused. The reckless driving serves as justa causa for the accident. This example demonstrates how justa causa represents a reason that possesses legal validity to hold someone responsible for an occurrence or outcome. In this case, the reckless driving serves as justa causa for the accident, and the driver may be held liable for the damages caused.

Full Definition Of Justa Causa

“Justa causa,” a Latin term meaning “just cause,” plays a significant role in various legal systems, particularly within the context of employment law and the dismissal of employees. This concept encapsulates the legitimate reasons an employer may have to terminate an employment relationship without facing legal repercussions. Understanding justa causa is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure fairness and legal compliance in the workplace. This overview explores the origins, applications, and implications of justa causa in British employment law, drawing comparisons with other jurisdictions where relevant.

Historical Context and Evolution

The concept of justa causa has roots in Roman law, where it was used to denote a lawful or just reason for certain actions. Over time, this principle was integrated into various legal systems, influencing modern employment law. In the United Kingdom, the evolution of employment law has been shaped by both common law principles and statutory provisions. While the term “justa causa” itself is not commonly used in British employment law, the underlying concept is reflected in the notion of “fair dismissal.”

Fair Dismissal in British Employment Law

In the UK, the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) governs the rules around unfair dismissal, providing a framework for determining whether an employee’s dismissal is justified. According to the ERA, an employer must have a fair reason for dismissal and must act reasonably in all circumstances of the case.

Fair Reasons for Dismissal

The ERA outlines several potentially fair reasons for dismissal, which align with the concept of justa causa. These reasons include:

  • Capability or Qualifications: If an employee lacks the ability or qualifications required to perform their job effectively, dismissal may be justified. This can involve issues such as poor performance, lack of necessary skills, or failure to meet professional standards.
  • Conduct: Misconduct, including violations of workplace policies, dishonesty, or other inappropriate behaviour, can constitute a fair reason for dismissal. Employers must usually follow a disciplinary procedure before dismissing an employee for misconduct.
  • Redundancy: Economic or organisational changes that render an employee’s role unnecessary can justify dismissal on grounds of redundancy. Employers are required to follow specific procedures, including consultation and selection criteria, to ensure the redundancy process is fair.
  • Statutory Illegality: If continuing to employ someone would contravene a statutory duty or restriction, such as immigration laws, dismissal may be justified. Employers must ensure they are compliant with relevant legal obligations to avoid penalties.
  • Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR): This is a catch-all category that includes various other legitimate reasons for dismissal, such as a fundamental breakdown in the working relationship or significant changes in business needs.

Reasonableness and Procedure

Even if an employer has a fair reason for dismissal, the dismissal itself must be handled reasonably. The reasonableness test involves considering whether the employer followed a fair procedure and whether the decision to dismiss was within the range of reasonable responses. Key aspects of a fair procedure include:

  • Investigation: Conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances leading to the potential dismissal.
  • Consultation: Engaging in meaningful consultation with the employee, providing them with an opportunity to present their side of the story and respond to any allegations.
  • Warning and Opportunity to Improve: In cases of capability or conduct issues, give the employee a clear warning and a reasonable chance to improve their performance or behaviour.
  • Appeal Process: Allowing the employee the right to appeal against the dismissal decision.

Unfair Dismissal Claims

Employees who believe they have been unfairly dismissed can bring a claim to an employment tribunal. To succeed, the employee must show that they were dismissed and that the dismissal was not for a fair reason or was procedurally unfair. If the tribunal finds in favour of the employee, it can order remedies such as reinstatement, re-engagement, or compensation.

Comparative Perspectives

While British employment law incorporates the principles of justa causa under the guise of fair dismissal, other jurisdictions have their own interpretations and applications of the concept. For example:

  • United States: In the US, employment is generally “at-will,” meaning employers can dismiss employees for any reason or no reason at all, provided it is not discriminatory or in violation of public policy. However, collective bargaining agreements and individual employment contracts may provide just-cause protections.
  • Canada: Canadian employment law, particularly in unionised workplaces, often includes just cause provisions. Employers must demonstrate that they have a valid reason for dismissal and that they followed a fair process.
  • European Union: EU member states have varying approaches to employment protection, but many incorporate principles similar to justa causa. For instance, the concept of “fair dismissal” is recognised in many EU countries, requiring employers to justify dismissals and adhere to procedural safeguards.

Practical Implications for Employers and Employees

Understanding justa causa and its application in British employment law has practical implications for both employers and employees. Employers must ensure they have clear policies and procedures in place to handle dismissals fairly and legally. This includes providing training for managers on conducting investigations, consultations, and disciplinary processes.

Employees, on the other hand, should be aware of their rights and the legal standards governing dismissals. Knowing what constitutes a fair reason for dismissal and the procedural requirements can help employees recognise when their rights may have been violated and seek appropriate redress.

Case Law and Judicial Interpretation

British case law provides numerous examples of how tribunals and courts interpret and apply the principles of justa causa in the context of unfair dismissal claims. Key cases highlight the importance of following fair procedures and the consequences of failing to do so. For example, in the case of Polkey v. AE Dayton Services Ltd. [1987], the House of Lords established that even if there is a fair reason for dismissal, failure to follow a fair procedure can render the dismissal unfair.

Another landmark case, British Home Stores Ltd. v. Burchell [1978], set out the test for determining whether an employer had a genuine belief in the employee’s misconduct and whether that belief was based on reasonable grounds following a reasonable investigation.


The concept of justa causa, while rooted in ancient legal traditions, continues to be a cornerstone of modern employment law. In the UK, the principles of justa causa are embedded in the framework for fair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Employers must have a valid reason for dismissing an employee and must follow a fair procedure to avoid claims of unfair dismissal.

By understanding the legal standards and requirements for fair dismissal, both employers and employees can navigate the complexities of employment relationships with greater clarity and confidence. This knowledge helps to foster a fair and just workplace where the rights and responsibilities of all parties are respected and upheld.

Justa Causa FAQ'S

Justa causa is a Latin term that translates to “just cause” in English. It refers to a legal concept that allows an employer to terminate an employee’s contract without providing any notice or severance pay due to the employee’s serious misconduct or breach of employment obligations.

Justa causa for termination typically includes serious offenses such as theft, fraud, violence, harassment, gross insubordination, or repeated negligence. It can also include other actions that significantly harm the employer’s business or reputation.

In most jurisdictions, an employer cannot terminate an employee without just cause unless the employment contract explicitly allows for it or the employee is on a probationary period. Otherwise, termination without just cause may be considered wrongful dismissal and could lead to legal consequences.

Yes, an employee can challenge a termination based on justa causa if they believe it was unjustified or improperly applied. They may file a complaint with the relevant labor authority or pursue legal action to seek reinstatement or compensation.

To establish justa causa, an employer typically needs to provide clear and convincing evidence of the employee’s misconduct or breach of employment obligations. This may include witness statements, surveillance footage, documented incidents, or any other relevant evidence.

Yes, an employer may suspend an employee without pay if there is justa causa for the suspension. However, the suspension should be reasonable in duration and proportionate to the alleged misconduct.

Generally, employees terminated for justa causa are not entitled to severance pay. However, this may vary depending on the specific labor laws and employment contract provisions in each jurisdiction.

While it is not legally required in all cases, conducting a thorough investigation is generally advisable before terminating an employee for justa causa. This helps ensure that the decision is fair, based on accurate information, and reduces the risk of potential legal challenges.

In some cases, an employer may terminate an employee for justa causa without providing a warning, especially if the misconduct is severe or poses an immediate threat to the workplace. However, it is generally considered good practice to provide warnings or corrective actions before resorting to termination.

In most jurisdictions, employees terminated for justa causa are not eligible for unemployment benefits. These benefits are typically reserved for employees who are terminated without just cause or due to circumstances beyond their control.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 6th June 2024.

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