Kenneth L. Mowery
BUS670: Legal Environment
Prof. Alexis Hooley
August 20, 2012
“Over the past 20 to 25 years courts have been carving out common law exceptions to employment at will” (Mallor, Barnes, Bowers, & Langvardt, 2010, p. 1338). One of those exceptions is that of wrongful termination or unjust dismissal. In the past three years there have been five wrongful termination suits brought against Haywood Regional Medical Center. Three cases ended positively for the plaintiffs, while the other two showed that the Medical Center had the stronger case and that the Medical Center had just cause to terminate the employee. . “The remedies in successful wrongful discharge suits depend heavily on whether the plaintiff’s claim sounds in contract or in tort, with tort remedies being more advantageous for plaintiffs” (Mallor et al., 2010, p. 1338). If the plaintiff can prove his or her case against the employer for wrongful discharge or termination, the employee can recover damages from the employer. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to prove wrongful termination and remedies can be costly for the employer. The employer can avoid the liability of a wrongful termination suit by keeping up with the policies and procedures and performance evaluations of its employees. Employment at Will
Let us look at different exceptions to the common-law doctrine of employment-at-will. “The rule says that either party can terminate an employment contract of indefinite duration. The termination can occur at any time; and can be for good cause or no cause” (Mallor et al., 2010, p. 1338). However, according to Hames and his evaluation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, there must be no formal employment contract for a specified period of time and there can be no statutory prohibitions to the contrary (1991, p.122).
Hospitals hire many individuals with different backgrounds, skills, and values, so it is difficult to, as Hames states, “devise personnel policies and practices that are perceived as fair and just by the majority of their employees” (1991, p. 122). With this in mind, the cause for termination may also be a morally wrong cause. What may seem right to the employer may be wrong, morally, for the employees. Because hospitals hire such a diverse population of employees, many are “at risk” for wrongful termination suits against them. In his research, Hames noted that in many cases there has been the implication that the courts have eroded the Employment-at-will doctrine, which leave employers with little discretion regarding who they can fire and under what circumstances (1991, p. 122). This can leave employee at many hospitals little protection against wrongful termination. Exceptions to the Employment-at-will doctrine were mentioned earlier; we will first examine the Public Policy Exception. Public Policy Exception
“The public policy exception to the doctrine of employment-at-will asserts that employees may not be terminated for refusing to perform an act that is contrary to a clearly mandated public policy nor for performing an act that is consistent with such a public policy” (Hames, 1991, p. 123). Employers may not terminate the employment of an employee for morally wrong causes. This can be seen in Wagenseller v. Scottsdale Memorial Hospital (1985), where Wagenseller was fired from her job at the hospital for not engaging in morally wrong activities; mooning an audience and bathing in public being two of them (Hames, 1991, p. 123). If the employee is discharged or fired from their job for not performing morally wrong activities, the employee will be able to win a wrongful termination suit against the employer. In her case against Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, “the court concluded that firing someone for refusing to...