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Brunner v. Al Attar - 786 S.W.2d 784, 1990 Tex. App. LEXIS 317, 53 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P39,737

Rule:

The Texas Supreme Court recognizes a very narrow exception to the judicially-created employment-at-will doctrine. That narrow exception covers only the discharge of an employee for the sole reason that the employee refuses to perform an illegal act. The exception requires that where an employee seeks to invoke the public policy exception, it is the plaintiff's burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his discharge was for no reason other than his refusal to perform an illegal act.

Facts:

Janet Brunner, appellant, was an employee at Apollo Paint & Body, a general partnership corporation where the appellees Farouk Al Attar and Rima Al Attar were partners. Aside from her employment at the said general partnership, Brunner was performing a volunteer work in an AIDS foundation. She was thereafter dismissed from her employment at Apollo Paint & Body. According to Brunner, Farouk terminated her, because he feared that she would catch and spread the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to employees. On the other hand, the defendants contended that Brunner was terminated because of her refusal to work during the hours required, her request to be terminated, and her failure, inability and/or refusal to perform the work expected of her. As a response to her termination, Brunner filed a wrongful termination suit against defendants. Defendants moved for a summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Brunner then appealed the judgment.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in its decision to grant summary judgment in favor of defendants?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. . The Court determined that Brunner failed to allege sufficient facts to place her within the two exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine, which were a refusal to perform an illegal act or a desire by the spouses to avoid paying benefits under her pension fund. The Court also found that Brunner’s failure to allege that she was handicapped prevented her from establishing that she was discriminated against because of a handicap.

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