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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues one today, re Indiana employment at will

In Bregin v. Liquidebt Systems (ND Ind., Judge Springmann), an 11-page opinion, Judge Evans writes:

After Donald A. Bregin was discharged from his employment at Liquidebt Systems, Inc. (LSI) he filed this lawsuit, contending that his discharge was in retaliation for his refusal to participate in illegal accounting practices or, alternatively, for being a whistle-blower, and that SIRVA, Inc. (in conspiracy with LSI) tortiously interfered with his employment. The district court granted summary judgment for both companies, and Bregin appeals. Our review is de novo. * * *

Bregin filed this lawsuit under Indiana law, contending, in part, that LSI terminated his employment in retaliation for his reporting SIRVA’s illegal financial practices, for refusing to engage in those practices, or for being a whistle-blower. Given the undisputed facts, the claim must fail.

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court reaffirmed the Indiana employment-at-will doctrine which “permits both the employer and the employee to terminate the employment at any time for a ‘good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.’” Meyers v. Meyers, 861 N.E.2d 704, 706 (Ind. 2007), quoting Montgomery v. Bd. of Trustees of Purdue Univ., 849 N.E.2d 1120, 1128 (Ind. 2006). The court stated that on “rare occasions, narrow exceptions have been recognized.” Meyers, at 706. On one “rare” occasion a “narrow” exception was found in McClanahan v. Remington Freight Lines, Inc., 517 N.E.2d 390 (Ind. 1988). McClanahan was a truck driver who was permitted to pursue a cause of action against an employer who fired him for refusing to haul a load that exceeded the weight limits on Illinois highways. He could have been personally liable for a violation. A narrow exception to at-will employment was recognized in that case to avoid encouraging criminal conduct. A second exception is set out in Frampton v. Central Indiana Gas Co., 297 N.E.2d 425 (Ind. 1973). The court found a cause of action for retaliatory discharge based on explicit language in a statute—the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act. The court said that “under ordinary circumstances, an em- ployee at will may be discharged without cause. However, when an employee is discharged solely for exercising a statutorily conferred right an exception to the general rule must be recognized.” At 428. The narrowness of this exception was made clear, however, in Wior v. Anchor Industries, Inc., 669 N.E.2d 172 (Ind. 1996), when the court refused to allow a claim brought by a manager who was terminated for refusing to follow a supervisor’s order to fire an employee who filed a worker’s compensation claim. * * *

Affirmed

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 19, 2008 11:00 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions