Today we filed our response brief to Enlivant’s motion to dismiss in our wrongful termination lawsuit in McCutcheon v. Enlivant, currently pending in the Southern District of West Virginia. The lawsuit challenges the right of private employers in West Virginia to discharge employees for not taking the EUA vaccine. Here’s the filing.
Seeking to temper the otherwise harsh results that would obtain where a discharge from employment was impelled by the employer’s desire to contravene public policy, an exception to the common law doctrine of at-will employment was established. See Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 772 S.E.2d 350 (W. Va. 2015); See also Wright v. Standard Ultramarine and Color Co., 141 W.Va. 368, 382, 90 S.E.2d 459, 468 (1955) (recognizing that at- will employees serve at will and pleasure of their employers and may be discharged at any time, with or without cause). That exception, created in Harless v. First National Bank, 162 W.Va. 116, 246 S.E.2d 270 (1978), provides:
The rule that an employer has an absolute right to discharge an at will employee must be tempered by the principle that where the employer’s motivation for the discharge is to contravene some substantial public policy principle, then the employer may be liable to the employee for damages occasioned by this discharge.
Id. at 116, 246 S.E.2d at 271, syllabus; Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 772 S.E.2d 350 (W. Va. 2015). The Court has identified the areas from which public policy may be gleaned:
‘The sources determinative of public policy are, among others, our federal and state constitutions, our public statutes, our judicial decisions, the applicable principles of the common law, the acknowledged prevailing concepts of the federal and state governments relating to and affecting the safety, health, morals and general welfare of the people for whom government—with us—is factually established.’
“To identify the sources of public policy for purposes of determining whether a retaliatory discharge has occurred, we look to established precepts in our constitution, legislative enactments, legislatively approved regulations, and judicial opinions.” Syl. Pt. 2, Birthisel, 188 W.Va. at 372, 424 S.E.2d at 607. “Substantial public policy” has been defined by the Supreme Court as “not just recognizable as such but be so widely regarded as to be evident to employers and employees alike.” Id. at 745, 559 S.E.2d at 718. The Court recognized in Syllabus Point 3 of Birthisel that ““[i]nherent in the term ‘substantial public policy’ is the concept that the policy will provide specific guidance to a reasonable person.” 188 W.Va. at 372, 424 S.E.2d at 607. The Court has looked to whether regulations or licensing statutes contained specific provisions that addressed the allegedly improper conduct by the employer. Frohnapfel v. ArcelorMittal USA LLC, 235 W.Va. 165, 170 (W. Va. 2015).
Here is their memorandum arguing for dismissal:
Discussion from last night:
Thank you for posting. These filed briefs are very helpful. I know that this is the West Virginia Federal Court, but the filings for Pennsylvania are, from what I can tell, the same.