Hernandez-Nolt v. Washington County

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 02-08-2017
  • Case #: A157757
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Tookey, J. for the Court; Sercombe, P.J.; DeHoog, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the theory of wrongful discharge, employers may incur tort liability for discharging an employee for "fulfilling some important public duty."

On appeal, Plaintiff asserted that the trial court erred in granting a directed verdict to the County based on its conclusion that Plaintiff "was not fulfilling an important public duty," as required to proceed under Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim. Oregon has recognized that employers may be held liable in tort law under “circumstances in which an employer discharges an employee for such a socially undesirable motive that the employer must respond in damages for any injury done." For example, circumstances “when the discharge is for exercising a job-related right that reflects an important pubic policy” or “when the discharge is for fulfilling some important public duty."  In this case, Plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence that the County intentionally created or maintained objectively intolerable work conditions that caused plaintiff to resign from the county at that time. The Court held, no reasonable fact-finder could have ruled in favor of Plaintiff. Therefore, the trial court did not err in granting a directed verdict for the County. Affirmed.

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