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OSHA No Basis for Public Policy Exception to At-Will Dismissal in Oklahoma
Description Employee fired for protesting new safety procedures as less safe than previous procedure may not claim a public policy exception to at-will dismissal based on federal or state OSHA protection.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Employment-at-Will, Public Policy, OSHA
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank instituted a security policy that plaintiff, a security supervisor, protested was less safe than the previous policy of spot checks of packages. He was fired for his opposition. He sued, claiming his dismissal was covered by the public policy exception to at-will employment dismissals. The U.S. District Court certified this question to the Oklahoma Supreme Court: "Does the 'general duty clause' of the Federal [OSHA] and/or Oklahoma's [OSHA] either in conjunction or separately, articulate a 'clear mandate' of public policy of the State of Oklahoma upon which a plaintiff may base a tort claim against a private employer for wrongful termination ... alleging retaliation for protesting ... working conditions that the plaintiff believed to be unsafe?"
Decision No. "The primary arbiter of Oklahoma public policy, the Oklahoma legislature, has not established the necessary 'well-defined' or 'clear and compelling' public policy that is required in making an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine.... Plaintiff may not base a private tort claim against his private employer premised upon either the federal OSHA statute, Oklahoma's Act or the two in conjunction with one another."
Citation Griffin v. Mullinix, Slip Copy, (1997 OK 120, 1997 WL 610359, Sup. Ct., Ok.)
or
947 P.2d 177 (Sup. Ct., Ok., 1997)

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