The End of At-Will

Ha! I like not that:

A longtime employee of the Whole Foods Market in Brentwood is suing the company for firing her after she complained to her superiors about the alleged mishandling of organic produce.

Elisha Wellman of St. Louis had worked at the store since 2001. But in late August, she was fired, the lawsuit says, after she repeatedly pointed out unsanitary display crates and shelving, and the commingling of organic and nonorganic produce.

“She attempted to bring this to the attention of her managers, then brought it to a regional level, and then a week or so later she lost her job,” said Gary A. Growe, Wellman’s attorney. “They accused her of being involved with some customer complaints some six or eight months ago, that she had nothing to do with.”

Under the “at-will” doctrine, Wellman had the legal ability to quit at anytime, while Whole Foods could fire her at any time, for any reason, unless the termination was discriminatory. But, Growe explained, the law contains a “public policy exemption” that prohibits a company from firing a person if they point out violations of law or policy. It’s under this exemption that Growe is making his case.

“The law gives you the term ‘whistle-blower,'” Growe said.

Given the number of regulations applicable to any business, it’s a very short slippery slope to making anyone who complains at work into a whistle blower, ineligible for termination.