Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.
LexisNexis® CLE On-Demand features premium content from partners like American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education and Pozner & Dodd. Choose from a broad listing of topics suited for law firms, corporate legal departments, and government entities. Individual courses and subscriptions available.
Today, in my employment law class, we cover the case of Weaver v. Harpster. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that a woman could not sue her employer for sex discrimination/harassment [subscribers can access an enhanced version of this opinion: lexis.com | Lexis Advance]. That probably comes as a shock to a lot of readers, so let me back up and walk-through the issues:
Wait... so an employee can sue her employer for sex discrimination! Yes, but... Title VII only covers employers with 15 or more employees and the PHRA only covers employers with 4 or more employees. In Weaver, the employer had fewer than 4 employees.
That brings us to another exception to "at will" employment: the common law tort of "wrongful termination" in violation of public policy. The issue in Weaver was whether Pennsylvania courts recognize a cause of action for sex discrimination as a matter of public policy even though the statutes did not apply due to the size of the employer. The Court concluded that it would not allow such a lawsuit.
And that brings us to the topic from the headline. Eugene Volokh has a great new post: May employer fire employees for defending themselves (or others) against violent customers. The post highlights this new case:
Last Thursday, the Utah Supreme Court weighed in on the side of restricting employers’ ability to fire employees for their on-the-job self-defense, though only “where an employee reasonably believes that force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of serious bodily harm and the employee has no opportunity to withdraw [lexis.com | Lexis Advance].”
As noted in the post, a Pennsylvania case arrived at a different conclusion, Scott v. Extracorporeal, Inc. (concluding "the public policy asserted by appellant — the right to exercise self-defense — strikes entirely too near the employer's legitimate interest in discharging employees it perceives to be disruptive.") [lexis.com | Lexis Advance]. Note: I should note another exception to "at will" employment in Pennsylvania where the employee provides "additional consideration" - the employee provides so much added benefit, or incurs so much added cost, beyond mere employment responsibilities, that Courts will find an implied contract. Sidenote: My apologies for the unannounced blogging hiatus last week. Things got a little crazy. I joined my first political campaign, supporting my colleague Katie Oliver for Centre County Judge. I created her website http://www.KatieOliverForJudge.com in the span of 4 days (while continuing to work and teach). Check back often as we continue to enhance the site.
Read additional employment law articles on Philip Miles’ blog, Lawffice Space.
For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions, please connect with us through our corporate site.