Law School Case Brief
Perks v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. - 611 F.2d 1363 (3d Cir. 1979)
Where a complaint itself discloses a plausible and legitimate reason for terminating an at-will employment relationship and no clear mandate of public policy is violated thereby, an employee at will has no right of action against his employer for wrongful discharge.
The employer was suspicious that the employee had accepted gratuities from a supplier. The employee refused to take a polygraph examination to prove his innocence, and he was discharged. The employee filed a complaint in state court and alleged that the discharge was unlawful because it violated the public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The complaint was removed to a federal district court, and summary judgment was entered in favor of the employer. The district court held as a matter of law that the employee was discharged for violation of the employer's policy concerning gratuities.
Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favour of the employer?
On appeal, the court reversed and remanded. The record indicated that there was the existence of a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the reason for the discharge. The evidence created an inference that the employer gave undue consideration to the employee's refusal to take a polygraph test, and used that refusal as the basis for the discharge. If the employer's discharge resulted from the employee's refusal to submit to a polygraph examination required by the employer, a cause of action existed under state law for tortious discharge. Summary judgment was improper.
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