This month the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division III issued a ruling in Becker v. Community Health Systems, Inc. that expands protections in a wrongful termination action based on violation of a public policy.
In Becker, the Plaintiff, a former chief financial officer for Community Health Systems, Inc. (“CHS”), alleged that while CHS initially represented that it would have a $4 million operating loss, Becker calculated a projected $12 million operating loss in 2012. When CHS requested Becker revise his projection prior to submitting it to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), Becker refused. CHS placed Becker on a performance improvement plan and conditioned his continued employment on revising the loss projection. Becker documented his concern with the CHS calculation and advised the company that unless it remedied its misconduct he would be forced to resign. CHS accepted Becker’s notice as a resignation.
Becker sued in superior court for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy (he also filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration). After the trial court denied CHS’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under CR 12(b)(6), CHS sought discretionary review with the Court of Appeals.