Wrongful Termination Basics – Part 2
On Monday, I reviewed the basic contours of a wrongful termination claim. I pointed out that, under state common law, you may have a wrongful termination claim against an employer if you were fired in violation of public policy, but that states vary on what public policy means in this context.
Even within a state, the line that courts draw around public policy in wrongful termination cases can be less than bright. In Virginia, for example, a state near and dear to me (we like to call it the “Commonwealth”), the line has been drawn so that:
- A former employee of an assisted living facility has a valid claim for wrongful termination if she was fired for answering the questions of a state investigator about the safety of the facility’s residents. McFarland v. Virginia Retirement Servcs. of Chesterfield, LLC (E.D. Va. 2007). [477 F. Supp. 2d 727]
- But, a former employee of a tractor supply company does not have a valid claim for wrongful termination if she was fired for pressing criminal charges against her manager for assault and battery. Rowan v. Tractor Supply Co. (Va. 2002). [263 Va. 209, 599 S.E.2d 709]
- Yet, a former employee does have a valid claim for wrongful termination if she was fired for refusing to engage in a sexual relationship with her boss (which, in Virginia, would violate criminal laws prohibiting fornication and lewd and lascivious cohabitation). Mitchem v. Counts (Va. 2000). [259 Va. 179, 523 S.E.2d 246]
- And, two former employees who also were shareholders of a bank do have a valid claim for wrongful termination if they were fired for exercising their rights as shareholders to oppose a merger proposed by the bank’s management. Bowman v. State Bank of Keysville (Va. 1985). [229 Va. 534, 331 S.E.2d 797]