1 minute read

Employment at Will

Violation Of Public Policy

Several public policy exceptions to the employment-at-will practice have been recognized by courts in some jurisdictions. In public policy cases, the employee alleges that he or she has been discharged in violation of a policy found in a statutory right of the employee, statutes containing penalties, constitutional provisions, and judicial opinions. Courts have generally been more willing to recognize a public policy exception when the policy in question has a statutory basis than when it does not.

Courts in many jurisdictions have been willing to recognize public policy exceptions for employees who were discharged because they asserted a statutory right. For example, in Firestone Textile Co. Division, Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Meadows, 666 S.W.2d 730 (1983), the Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled that an employer could not discharge an employee simply because he had filed a workers' compensation claim.

A public policy exception to employment at will has also been found in cases where an employee was fired for refusing to violate a statute. Wrongful discharge has been found in instances where employees were dismissed for refusing to dispose of waste in a place where doing so is prohibited by federal law, for refusing to commit perjury, and for giving testimony in compliance with a court order.

Courts have much less frequently been willing to recognize exceptions to employment at will owing to constitutional provisions. Nevertheless, in Novosel v. Nationwide Insurance Co., 721 F.2d 894 (3d Cir. 1983), a federal appeals court made a public policy exception for an employee who was dismissed for refusing to join a company's LOBBYING effort because he privately opposed the company's stance on the issue. The court found that the free speech provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the U.S. Constitution's FIRST AMENDMENT protected the employee's refusal. In Borse v. Piece Goods Shop, 963 F.2d 611 (1992), a federal circuit court of appeals ruled that Pennsylvania law may protect at-will employees from being fired for refusing to take part in drug-testing programs if the employees' privacy is unreasonably invaded.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Embargo to Estate pur (or per) autre vieEmployment at Will - Breach Of Contract, Breach Of An Implied Covenant Of Good Faith And Fair Dealing, Violation Of Public Policy