Written by attorney Randy T. Enochs

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Holds At-Will Doctrine Does Not Protect Employee from Termination Over Un

In the state of Wisconsin, unless provided for otherwise, employees are at-will, meaning "employees are terminable at will, for any reason, without cause and with no judicial remedy." However, there is an exception to this doctrine known as "wrongful termination." Wrongful termination occurs when an employer has terminated an employee in violation of some recognized state policy. So, for example, in Wandry v. Bull's Eye Credit Union, 129 Wis. 2d 37, 384 N.W.2d 325 (1986), a credit union cashier was terminated after she cashed a customer's stolen check and refused to reimburse the credit union. The cashier sued the credit union asserting the union violated WIS. STAT. ? 103.455, which she asserted was an expression of Wisconsin public policy. The cashier won. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals in Farady-Sultze v. Aurora Medical Center of Oshkosh, Inc. did not favor the employee this time. In this case, the employee was terminated by Aurora after they discovered they had overpaid her during a four-month period. The employee was working between two Aurora locations and then ceased to work at one location but continued to receive paychecks, via direct deposit, from one location due to oversight but neglected to inform Aurora that she was still receiving paychecks. The employee claimed she did not know she was receiving the overpayments but that did not matter, according to the Court of Appeals, because they were not earned wages. Farady-Sultze also claimed that Aurora intentionally inflicted emotional distress and defamed her because it is Aurora's policy to disclose the reason for termination to potential employers, but those claims did not stand up either. The Court of Appeals, on the issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress, held that the claim is barred by the exclusivity provision of the Worker's Compensation Act. On the defamation claim, the Court held that, though it is Aurora's policy to affirmatively disclose to potential employers the reason for termination, there is no evidence that it has or may occur.

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