Question about Wrongful Termination?

October 13th, 2011 by JBWK

The basic answer is: don’t worry about it; it nearly doesn’t exist.

One of the most frequent issues terminated employees raise is that their termination was “wrongful.” In that, they typically mean they were terminated without a good reason, or for a bad reason. The most frequent answer that lawyers give them is that it doesn’t really matter.

A recent Virginia trial court ruling provides a good reminder of this principle:

Generally, a terminated employee has no recourse in wrongful termination. There is, however, a narrow exception to this rule announced in [the Virginia Supreme Court decision of] Bowman v. State Bank of Keysville. A terminated employee may bring a Bowman claim that asserts a wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. It is not a general cause of action for retaliatory discharge. To prevail, the plaintiff must show (1) that a statute either contains an express statement of public policy or is designed to protect the rights or welfare of the general public and (2) that the plaintiff was fired for exercising a right the statute is meant to protect.

Overcoming this standard is difficult, and very few terminations fall under this narrow exception to the general rule. While a termination may be based on a bad, erroneous, or arbitrary reason, that doesn’t make it “wrongful.”

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