Saturday, July 30, 2016

Exception to the terminable-at-will doctrine

The limitations to the wrongful discharge exception to the terminable-at-will doctrine are carefully set out in Firestone. We state: "[e]mployers as a group have a legitimate interest to protect" which requires that "the cause of action for wrongful discharge [be] clearly defined and suitably controlled." Id.
We embraced Brockmeyer v. Dun & Bradstreet, 113 Wis.2d 561, 335 N.W.2d 834 (1983), to establish the limitations on "any judicial exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine." 335 N.W.2d at 835. They are:
1) The discharge must be contrary to a fundamental and well-defined public policy as evidenced by existing law.
2) That policy must be evidenced by a constitutional or statutory provision.
3) The decision of whether the public policy asserted meets these criteria is a question of law for the court to decide, not a question of fact.

* * *

 We adopt, as an appropriate caveat to our decision in Firestone Textile Co. Div. v. Meadows, supra, the position of the Michigan Supreme Court in Suchodolski v. Michigan Consolidated Gas Co., 412 Mich. 692, 316 N.W.2d 710 (1982). The Michigan court held that only two situations exist where "grounds for discharging an employee are so contrary to public policy as to be actionable" absent "explicit legislative statements prohibiting the discharge." 316 N.W.2d at 711. First, "where the alleged reason for the discharge of the employee was the failure or refusal to violate a law in the course of employment." Second, "when the reason for a discharge was the employee's exercise of a right conferred by well-established legislative enactment." 316 N.W.2d at 711-12. Here the concept of an employment-related nexus is critical to the creation of a "clearly defined" and "suitably controlled" cause of action for wrongful discharge. These are the limitations imposed by Firestone Textile Co. Div. v. Meadows, supra at 733.

Grzyb v. Evans, 700 SW 2d 399 (Ky 1985)

See also:

Foster V. Jennie Stuart Medical Center, 435 SW 3d 629 (Ky App 2013)
Pierce v. Bennett, 835 F. Supp. 2d 288 (WD Ky 2011)

Tom Fox, J. D.
Southern Specialty Law Publishing Company
Louisville, Kentucky

A division of Accountable Kentucky Incorporated
a Kentucky Non-profit corporation

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This is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer.

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