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Hughes v. Mayoral - 721 F. Supp. 2d 947 (D. Haw. 2010)

Rule:

A claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy is intended to apply to a narrow class of cases where the wrongful discharge action is seen as necessary to effectuate the public policy at stake. If, however, the statutory or regulatory provisions which evidence the public policy themselves provide a remedy for the wrongful discharge, provision of a further remedy under the public policy exception is unnecessary. If the legislature has considered the effect of wrongful discharge on the policies which they are promoting, provision by the courts of a further remedy goes beyond what the legislature itself thought was necessary to effectuate that public policy.

Facts:

Plaintiff former employee sued defendants employer and co-worker, alleging discrimination and sexual harassment/hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state law, as well as state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and vicarious liability. Defendants moved for summary judgment.

Issue:

In plaintiff former employee's action alleging various claims, should the Court grant summary judgment in favor of defendant former employer?

Answer:

No, as to the Title VII discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims

Conclusion:

The motions for summary judgment were denied as to the Title VII discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, but were granted as to the other claims. The employer was denied summary judgment on the discrimination claim where a supervisor's statement in response to the employee's question evidenced an animus toward hiring and retaining Caucasian employees. However, summary judgment was appropriate on the Title VII sexual harassment claim where, inter alia, there was no evidence suggesting that the employee was treated in a sex-specific manner suggesting hostility toward men or that the employer had notice of alleged harassing conduct. The Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-2 sexual harassment claim suffered the same fate. Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the wrongful termination in violation of public policy claim as Title VII and § 378-2 already provided a sufficient remedy. The employer was entitled to summary judgment on the vicarious liability claim where the co-worker was acting on his own behalf in arguing with the employee. The intentional infliction of emotional distress claim survived as the claim was not barred by the Hawaii Workers' Compensation Act, and there was an issue of material fact as to whether the employer's or the co-worker's conduct was outrageous. Summary judgment was also denied as to the back pay request.

 

 

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