In Cudney v. ALSCO, Bryce Wilcox of Lukins & Annis successfully represented the employer (ALSCO) in a case where an employee was terminated for deficiencies in his job performance. The employee later sued, asserting he was really fired for reporting that the company's general manager had appeared intoxicated at work and was drinking and driving.
In his lawsuit, the employee claimed that Washington's work place safety laws (WISHA) and DUI laws reflect two sources of public policy and that his termination amounted to a wrongful discharge in violation of the public policies underlying these laws. The Washington Supreme Court was asked to decide whether Washington's work-place safety laws and its DUI laws were adequate to promote the public policies. If they were, the employee would have no civil claim because his redress would come from the protections afforded under existing law.
In a 5-4 decision in our client ALSCO's favor, the Supreme Court declined to expand the claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The high Court rejected the employee's invitation to expand such a claim because of the "existence of hardy statutory remedies that protect the relevant public policies." In so ruling, the Court affirmed that the remedies afforded under Washington's work-place safety laws and its DUI laws are adequate to protect the public policies supported by these laws. The Court held that a civil action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy exists only if other means of protecting the stated public policy are inadequate and the actions the plaintiff took were the "only available adequate means" to promote the public policy. By so holding, the Supreme Court affirmed that a claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy is "a narrow exception to the underlying doctrine of at-will employment."
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