Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wagenseller v. Scottsdale Memorial Hospital case brief

Wagenseller v. Scottsdale Memorial Hospital case brief summary
710 P.2d 1025 (1985)

Plaintiff employee challenged the judgment of the Court of Appeals (Arizona), which affirmed the trial court's order that granted summary judgment in favor of defendant hospital and certain defendant hospital employees in employee's action for wrongful termination, but found that the only cause of action available to employee was the claim against her supervisor.

The employee was a staff nurse and was an "at-will" employee. The employee claimed that her refusal to engage in acts of public indecency while on a rafting trip was the proximate cause of her termination. She claimed that her boss harassed her, used abusive language, and embarrassed her in the company of other staff. She appealed her dismissal in letters to her supervisor and to the hospital administrative and personnel department and claimed violations of the disciplinary procedure contained in the hospital's personnel policy manual. When this appeal was denied, the employee brought suit against the hospital, its personnel administrators, and her supervisor. The employee asserted that her termination was wrongful, and that damages were recoverable under both tort and contract theories. The hospital argued that an "at-will" employee may be fired for cause, without cause, or for "bad" cause.

  • The court held that an employee may be fired for good cause or for no cause, but not for "bad" cause. 
  • The court concluded that termination of employment for refusal to participate in public exposure of one's buttocks was a termination contrary to public policy.
The court affirmed in part and reversed in part and vacated the decision of the court of appeals and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the count seeking recovery for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment against the employee on the count of tortious interference with a contractual relationship.

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