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Total Articles: 3

Virginia Supreme Court Refuses to Expand Bowman Doctrine for Wrongful Termination of an At-Will Employee

Executive Summary: In Bowman v. State Bank of Keysville, the Virginia Supreme Court first recognized an exception to the employment at-will doctrine based upon an employer’s violation of public policy in the discharge of an employee. In subsequent cases dealing with the Bowman exception, the Court has consistently characterized such exceptions as “narrow.” In its recent opinion in Francis v. National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences, Inc., a case handled by FordHarrison attorneys, the Court again limited the ability of plaintiffs to rely on Bowman to bring a wrongful discharge claim.

Virginia Supreme Court Denies Expansion of Public Policy Exception for Wrongful Termination Claims

The Supreme Court of Virginia, in Francis v. National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences, Inc., No. 160267 (Feb. 23, 2017), reaffirmed that the public policy exception to Virginia’s employment at-will doctrine is a narrow one. In Francis, the court held that to state a valid claim of wrongful termination based on public policy, an employee must allege either that the termination itself violated the public policy stated in the relevant statute, or that the employer prevented the employee from exercising statutory rights.

Amorphous No More – Virginia Defines "Reasonable Notice" of Termination as "Effectual Notice" in the At-Will Employment Context

The Supreme Court of Virginia, in Johnston v. William E. Wood & Associates, Inc., No. 151160 (June 2, 2016), recently answered the question of what constitutes "reasonable notice" for terminating an at-will employee. The question has been an open one for over 100 years in Virginia. The court’s answer: Reasonable notice is "effectual notice," and can be immediate, such as when an employer tells an employee that her employment is terminated “effective immediately.” In rendering this decision, the court reinforced the Commonwealth's strong adherence to the traditional employment-at-will doctrine, and further buttressed its reputation as "employer-friendly.”