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Sabine Pilot Service, Inc. v. Hauck

Supreme Court of Texas

April 3, 1985

No. C-3312


 [*734]  This is a suit for wrongful discharge brought by an employee, Michael Andrew Hauck. The trial court rendered summary judgment for Sabine Pilot Service, Inc., the employer. The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the cause for trial. 672 S.W.2d 322. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.

Hauck was a deckhand for Sabine. He testified in deposition that he was instructed that one of his duties each day was to pump the bilges of the boat on which he worked. He observed a placard posted on the boat which stated that it was illegal to pump the bilges into the water. He called the United States Coast Guard and an officer confirmed that pumping bilges into the water was illegal; therefore, he refused to do so. He [**2]  further testified that he was fired for refusing to illegally pump the bilges into the water.

Sabine testified through one of its officers that Hauck was discharged because he refused to swab the deck, man a radio watch and other derelictions of duty.

] In reviewing the granting of a summary judgment we must accept as true the non-movant's version of the evidence and make every reasonable inference in the non-movant's favor.  Gulbenkian v. Penn, 151 Tex. 412, 252 S.W.2d 929 (1952). To sustain the summary judgment the movant must establish as a matter of law that no genuine issue of material fact exists.  City of Houston v. Clear Creek Basin Authority, 589 S.W.2d 671 (Tex. 1979).

The sole issue for our determination is whether an allegation by an employee that he was discharged for refusing to perform an illegal act states a cause of action. This court in East Line & R.R.R. Co. v. Scott, 72 Tex. 70, 75, 10 S.W. 99, 102 (1888), held that ] employment for an indefinite term may be terminated at will and without cause. The courts of Texas have steadfastly refused to vary from that holding.  However, in the last 30 years the courts of 22 states have made exceptions to the [**3]  employment-at-will doctrine and numerous commentators have advocated exceptions to the doctrine. The exceptions advocated by the commentators and adopted by various courts range from very liberal and broad exceptions to very narrow and closely defined ones. See Comment, The At-Will Doctrine: A Proposal to Modify the Texas Employment Relationship, 36 Baylor L. Rev. 667 (1984) for a thorough discussion of the reasoning and decisions of other states concerning this issue.

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687 S.W.2d 733 *; 1985 Tex. LEXIS 755 **; 28 Tex. Sup. J. 339; 119 L.R.R.M. 2187; 1 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 733; 102 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P55,493


Prior History:  [**1]    From Jefferson County Ninth District.


employment at will, public policy, illegal act, cause of action, termination

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, General Overview, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Labor & Employment Law, Employment Relationships, At Will Employment, Duration of Employment, Exceptions, Tort Exceptions, Public Policy Violations