Law School Case Brief
Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - 7 Cal. 4th 1238, 32 Cal. Rptr. 2d 223, 876 P.2d 1022 (1994)
The California Courts of Appeal have devised and applied the following test for constructive discharge: An employee who is forced to resign due to actions and conditions so intolerable or aggravated at the time of his resignation that a reasonable person in the employee's position would have resigned, and whose employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the intolerable actions and conditions and of their impact upon the employee and could have remedied the situation, but did not, is constructively discharged.
Plaintiff employee, James Turner, complained to defendant employer, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., about activities that were illegal or violated company policy. Several years after the complaints, Turner received a "needs improvement" review, and Turner resigned. \Turner later filed a complaint in California state court against Anheuser-Busch and several individuals. The complaint raised causes of action for age discrimination, constructive wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, breach of contract, and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The individual defendants were dismissed in various pretrial proceedings. Turner's emotional distress claims were dismissed on Anheuser-Busch's motion for judgment on the pleadings; he voluntarily dismissed his claim for age discrimination. Anheuser-Busch then obtained summary judgment on the breach of contract and public policy claims. On appeal, the court affirmed the summary judgment as to the contract claim, but reversed on the public policy claim. It held that the "cumulative effect" of the "long list of alleged actions Anheuser-Busch and workplace conditions" established a triable case of constructive wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The state supreme court granted Anheuser-Busch's petition for review
Was Turner constructively discharged by Anheuser-Busch?
The court held that Turner did not establish constructive discharge because he failed to show that he was subjected to working conditions rendering his job so intolerable that a reasonable person would have been compelled to resign. Turner was not requested or required to participate in any illegal conduct, and he acknowledged that some of his complaints were investigated. Turner failed to show the required nexus between the whistleblowing activities and a poor performance review that was given several years later. Turner did not identify a statutory or constitutional policy that was thwarted by his discharge. The court reversed and granted summary judgment on behalf of Anheuser-Busch.
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