Discharge in violation of public policy: Employment Law 101: #8 of 60
December 14, 2005 by Ross Runkel at LawMemo
One gigantic exception to the at-will employment doctrine is the idea of a discharge that violates public policy.
The at-will doctrine is a principle of contract law - the law of agreements. The public policy exception is a principle of tort law - the law of civil wrongs. Therefore, most courts apply the principle of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy whether the contract is at-will or some other kind of contract.
[Employment Law 101, published Monday-Wednesday-Friday, is a series designed to give you ideas and help you spot legal issues. It is not a substitute for a good employment lawyer or thorough research. For the most current developments in employment law court cases, try Employment Law Memo - World's Best.]
Courts recognize four types of public policy situations. Caution: Not every court recognizes every one of these. These are cases where the employer fires the employee because the employee:
- refused to do something that was unlawful. Examples:
- Refusing the employer's demand to commit perjury.
- Refusing to submit false reports to the government.
- A nurse refusing to perform a procedure he or she is not licensed to perform.
- performed a duty required by the law. Examples:
- Serving on a jury, which required being absent from work.
- Providing court testimony in response to a subpoena.
- exercised a right that the law gives to employees. Examples:
- Filing a claim for worker compensation.
- Filing a court complaint against the employer.
- reported unlawful employer conduct - "whistleblowing." Examples:
- Reporting to authorities that the employer's product had been mislabeled.
- Reporting to the supervisor's manager that the supervisor skipped mandatory product inspections.
Exception: Many courts will not recognize a tort of wrongful discharge in a specific situation if the employee has another remedy under a statute.
Example: The employee is fired for filing a worker compensation claim. The worker compensation statute prohibits firing an employee for filing a claim. Most courts will not recognize a tort of wrongful discharge here because the employee already has a remedy under the statute.
Coming next: Constructive discharge: Employment Law 101: #9 of 60
| MyLawMemo | Custom
Alerts | Newest Cases | Key
Word Search | Employment