Last week the Oregon Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Kemp v. Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc., holding that the plaintiff’s common law wrongful discharge claim was not precluded by the statutory remedies then available under Oregon or federal anti-discrimination laws, and that claim could properly be decided by a jury.  The case is another wrinkle in the ever-evolving and complex body of case law trying to define the contours of claims for common law wrongful discharge in Oregon.

Oregon Wrongful Discharge 101: A Quick Primer On When Common Law Wrongful Discharge Claims Can Be Precluded By Statutory Remedies

A claim for wrongful discharge is a common law tort claim developed by Oregon courts.  Many states’ courts have recognized the tort; Oregon’s Supreme Court first did so in the 1970s in Nees v. Hocks.  The specifics about what makes a discharge from employment “wrongful” and therefore tortious hinges on whether the employee’s termination violates an important public policy, usually where an employee is fulfilling an important job-related right or public duty.  As we have blogged about previously, courts have had difficulty wrestling with defining “wrongfulness” in specific cases, and divergent results can make it difficult to clearly understand which public duties and job-related rights are covered by the tort.  For example, being discharged for complaining about the employer’s fire code and safety violations (Love v. Polk County Fire Distr.) has been found wrongful, but a car salesman being fired for complaining about the employer’s allegedly deceptive sales tactics (Lamson v. Crater Lake Motors) or private security guards being fired for restraining or arresting concert-goers suspected of drug use and violent behavior (Babick v. Oregon Arena Corporation) was not.  Further, some courts have held wrongful discharge usually covers only conduct-based discrimination (taking action against an employee because of what they do, commonly known as “retaliation”), not status-based discrimination (based on a protected personal characteristic such as race, gender, or age), although this distinction is often inconsistently applied.

Continue Reading Oregon Court of Appeals Continues Debate About Status of Wrongful Discharge Claims In Oregon in Kemp v. Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc.

Sometimes the Washington Supreme Court pleasantly surprises employers. Today is one of those days. The Court issued its decision today in Briggs v. Nova Services. The plaintiffs in this case were eight employees of Nova Services, a non-profit social services organization in Washington. The employees apparently had major problems with the executive director who was appointed by

The Oregon Supreme Court has denied a car salesman’s wrongful discharge claim. In Lamson v. Crater Lake Motors, Inc., the salesman, Kevin Lamson, claimed he was terminated for complaining to his employer that an outside entity managing sales on his employer’s car lot was engaging in unlawful trade practices.  Lamson refused to participate in special promotional events run

This morning the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected a plaintiff’s common-law wrongful discharge claim that she was terminated for reporting a health and safety violation.  The Court ruled that the state and federal statutory remedies were adequate, and that she should have filed a statutory claim instead. 

Plaintiff Andrea Deatherage was an employee of Super 8 Inn when

Is a Washington employer prohibited from terminating an at-will employee because she took leave from work to protect herself from domestic violence?  Yes, according to last week’s opinion from the Washington Supreme Court in Danny v. Laidlaw Services

In Danny, the plaintiff sued her former employer in federal court, alleging she was terminated for