May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

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ELB
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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby ELB » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:12 pm

Resurrecting my old thread.

In Ray v Walmart, the Utah Supreme Court decided that self-defense is good public policy and employers may not enforce rules or policy against it. So the employees won that part of their case, but I haven't tracked down yet if they won the overall termination suit at the federal level.

The court's ruling: https://law.justia.com/cases/utah/supre ... 30940.html

Some labor law website articles:

https://www.law360.com/articles/704696/ ... stices-say

https://www.constangy.com/employment-la ... -maybe-not
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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby ELB » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:28 pm

I misremembered/misread the original situation.

As I now understand it, the employees originally sued in Federal court for wrongful termination, arguing that Walmart's policy against self-defense could not be enforced and therefore their termination was illegal. The federal court ruled in in part for Walmart and in part for the plaintiffs. The federal court ruled that (under federal law) Walmart's termination of the employees was not in violation of the law or contract, BUT that the question of whether firing for self-defense is against Utah state public policy is a question for the State of Utah, and referred the case to the Utah Supreme Court.

The Utah court ruled that under State law/public policy, Walmart may not fire employees for self-defense, so it appears that ultimately the employees won their suit. I don't know what substantive result they got from this, e.g. damages, got their jobs back, or what.

A good part of the Utah court's decision seems to rest on the fact that Utah laws generally strongly support the right of self-defense in general. This would not be the case in certain other states, so the decision might come out very differently elsewhere.
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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby oohrah » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:29 am

It certainly wouldn't be the case in Texas, as we are an "at will" employment state, and an employer can let you go for no reason at and doesn't even have to explain it ("sorry, your services are no longer required").

The only exception is if you are a protected class, and claim discrimination, but good luck with proving that.
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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby warnmar10 » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:58 am

oohrah wrote:It certainly wouldn't be the case in Texas, as we are an "at will" employment state, and an employer can let you go for no reason at and doesn't even have to explain it ("sorry, your services are no longer required").

The only exception is if you are a protected class, and claim discrimination, but good luck with proving that.
Utah is an "at will" state too.


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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby dlh » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:33 pm

The Supreme Court of Texas is very pro-business and pro-employer.

In my opinion they would say "public policy" is a matter best left to the Texas legislature and is not something that should be legislated from the bench.

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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby ELB » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:45 pm

dlh wrote:The Supreme Court of Texas is very pro-business and pro-employer.

In my opinion they would say "public policy" is a matter best left to the Texas legislature and is not something that should be legislated from the bench.


Utah's supreme court noted specifically that they don't draw public policy out of thin air, that it must be based on the constitution, laws, and previous court decisions. Because Utah has established strong support for self-defense in those areas, self-defense fell within one of the four public policy categories that the Utah court recognizes as superseding employer policies. The courts exist to decide whether and how the law applies to specific situations, and in Ray v Wal-Mart they found that self-defense was already covered by a public policy exception.

And, as warnmar10 noted, Utah is indeed at at-will state. But at-will employment is not without its bounds, and exceptions, even in Texas there are more exceptions than just "claims discrimination" (I assume that means worker's comp claims), including public policy exceptions. Just like Utah, at-will employment cannot be terminated for jury duty or reporting (or refusing to engage in) illegal conduct by the company. Also there are exceptions preventing termination for going on active duty, having wages garnished for child support, having declared bankruptcy, refusing to engage in or reporting patient dumping, and....lawfully having a gun locked in your car in the parking lot. Those are all established in law, and provide guidance on what kind of public policy exceptions exist.

Eugene Volokh notes how some other states have handled self-defense as a public policy exception: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/vol ... 6b7c9f8dbe
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Re: May Employers fire Employees for Defending Themselves?

Postby dlh » Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:34 am

ELB wrote:
dlh wrote:The Supreme Court of Texas is very pro-business and pro-employer.

In my opinion they would say "public policy" is a matter best left to the Texas legislature and is not something that should be legislated from the bench.


Utah's supreme court noted specifically that they don't draw public policy out of thin air, that it must be based on the constitution, laws, and previous court decisions. Because Utah has established strong support for self-defense in those areas, self-defense fell within one of the four public policy categories that the Utah court recognizes as superseding employer policies. The courts exist to decide whether and how the law applies to specific situations, and in Ray v Wal-Mart they found that self-defense was already covered by a public policy exception.

And, as warnmar10 noted, Utah is indeed at at-will state. But at-will employment is not without its bounds, and exceptions, even in Texas there are more exceptions than just "claims discrimination" (I assume that means worker's comp claims), including public policy exceptions. Just like Utah, at-will employment cannot be terminated for jury duty or reporting (or refusing to engage in) illegal conduct by the company. Also there are exceptions preventing termination for going on active duty, having wages garnished for child support, having declared bankruptcy, refusing to engage in or reporting patient dumping, and....lawfully having a gun locked in your car in the parking lot. Those are all established in law, and provide guidance on what kind of public policy exceptions exist.

Eugene Volokh notes how some other states have handled self-defense as a public policy exception: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/vol ... 6b7c9f8dbe


As far as I know the"at-will" exceptions you mention, in Texas, are all dictated by statute, not common-law, except for getting fired for refusing to engage in illegal conduct. The illegal conduct exception, if memory recalls, was decided by a liberal democrat-controlled Texas Supreme Court back in the mid-eighties. Fast forward to 2017 and a Texas Supreme Court consisting of 9 conservative Republican justices... I do not believe the current court has enlarged the at-will exception doctrine to any other area nor do I believe they will.

There are several cases in Texas of the 711 Corporation firing employees who shot armed robbers in self-defense. One could argue they were fired for having a gun on the job as opposed to defending themselves but then you open another can of worms regarding whether an employer can dictate the manner and means of how an employee can defend themselves, etc. etc. Again, I just do not believe the court wants to go there but that is just my opinion.


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