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Perks v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. - 611 F.2d 1363 (3d Cir. 1979)

Rule:

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.

Facts:

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.

Issue:

Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favour of the employer?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

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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