A divided Virginia Supreme Court recently held 4-3 that a state law claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy may be pursued against an individual supervisor or manager who participated in the wrongful firing but was not the worker's actual employer (VanBuren v. Grubb, Va., No. 120348, 11/1/12).
Writing for the majority to answer a question certified by the Fourth Circuit, Justice Millette says the purpose of Virginia's wrongful discharge tort is to deter firings in violation of public policy. That purpose “is best served if individual employees in a position of power are held personally liable for their tortious conduct.” By contrast, the dissent would find "[o]nly an employer can breach that duty because only an employer has the ability to hire and fire.”
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