The Law Office of Kurt H King

September 5, 2018

Missouri’s Whistleblower Law Applies Only to At-Will Employment, and Not Where Contract Provision Limits the Employer’s Right to Discharge/Terminate

Missouri’s new (08.28.2017) Whistleblower Protection Act, 285.575, RSMo, states that it ‘is intended to codify the existing common law exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine,’ ‘limit their future expansion by the courts,’ ‘and provide the exclusive remedy for any and all claims of unlawful employment practices.’”

The words of  the WPA limits its application to “at-will” employment.  What about cases where there a contract provision limits the reasons for which an employee may be lawfully terminated?  Does the WPA apply to wrongful termination for violation of public policy in a contract setting?  Apparently not.

Where a contract limits the reasons for which an employee may be discharged, the employment is not at-will in that regard.  When a labor agreement or other contract (Corporate Integrity Agreement?) prohibits retaliatory firing of an employees in violation of public policy set forth by constitution/statute/regulation, the employment is not at-will and the WPA should not apply. 

Missouri courts have long so held that employment is not at-will where “there is a contract “pertaining to the duration of the employment or limiting the reasons for which the employee may be discharged . . . .”  Maddock v. Lewis, 386 S.W.2d 406, 409 (Mo. 1965) (suit against railroad for breach of union contract); Williams v. Kansas City Public Service Co., 294 S.W.2d 36, 38 (Mo. 1956) (count II against Anheuser-Busch for breach of collective bargaining agreement).

More recently, the Missouri Supreme Court recognized this distinction in Keveney v. Missouri Military Academy, 304 S.W.3d 98, 103 (Mo. banc 2010), where it extended the claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy to cover contract employees (a teacher), in addition to at-will employees.

In short, the new whistleblower law should apply only to at-will employees, not reaching claims for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy where a contract limits the employer’s right to terminate an employee.

Kurt H. King, Missouri Attorney


20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

Retaliation & Discrimination, Litigation, General Matters


June 6, 2012

Wrongful Discharge of Organ Donor Employee

The recent Missouri appellate decision in Phyllis Delaney v. Signature Health Care Foundation, Opinion ED97419 filed May 22, 2012, handed down by Eastern District of Court of Appeals, sheds additional light on Missouri’s prohibition against firing employees contrary to public policy.  In this case, the employee asked for four weeks after surgery to donate a kidney to her brother.  The employer first gave the employee the green light, then said “no” three days before the surgery.  The employer refused to hold the employee’s position open and discharged the employee.

Ironically, the employer calls itself a health care foundation.  A foundation is often a body formed to serve charitable interests.  One would think a foundation of the health care variety would support its employee in being an organ donor, but apparently not so here.  Have to wonder!

The sole point on appeal is whether in donating a kidney the employee acted in a manner public policy would encourage.  The relatively obvious answer is “yes,” donating a kidney is something the public policy of the State of Missouri encourages.   The court of appeals therefore sent the case back down to the lower trial court so the employee may continue her case for wrongful discharge against the foundation that wrongfully discharged her from her job as a data entry clerk.

In its opinion, the court of appeals kindly listed these four categories of public policy exceptions to Missouri’s general rule that an employer may fire its at-will employees with or without cause: (1) refusing to perform an illegal act or an act contrary to strong public policy mandate; (2) reporting the employer or fellow employees to third parties for violations of law or public policy; (3) acting in a manner public policy would encourage; or, (4) filing a claim for workers’ compensation.  The third exception applied in this case and therefore the employer could not fire the employee for not being at work due to donating a kidney, an act encouraged by various Missouri laws discussed in the court’s opinion.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068


Litigation, Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for Debtors, Family Law, General Matters


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