Ind. SC won't make new exception to doctrine

John O'Brien Feb. 27, 2007, 3:07pm


INDIANAPOLIS - A retaliatory discharge claim will not be included in the list of Indiana's exemptions to the employment at will doctrine, the state's Supreme Court recently decided.

Justice Brent Dickson wrote the Feb. 21 opinion for the Court, which agreed unanimously to drop Paul Meyers' claim in his lawsuit against his former employer over unpaid overtime wages.

He affirmed that "revision or rejection of the doctrine is better left to the legislature," which was established in 1986's Morgan Drive Away, Inc. v. Brant. The doctrine says an employee or employer may terminate the relationship at any time for any reason.

"We likewise decline to allow an exception to the doctrine in this case," Dickson wrote.

Exceptions exist in the state, like an employee who is fired for pursuing a Workers' Compensation claim or one who is requesting leave for a family or medical emergency and is terminated for doing so.

But the Supreme Court decided that Paul Meyers' charge against Meyers Construction, Inc., would not join them.

Paul Meyers says that the company failed to pay overtime, and he is seeking $8,368.44 for taxes withheld from his payroll checks but not deposited with the Internal Revenue Services.

The trial court dismissed the retaliatory discharge claim (he claims he was fired for pursuing the alleged lost monies), though it was reversed by the Court of Appeals.

Meyers Construction owners James and Eva Meyers will be reinstated as individual defendants, though. The Court of Appeals had ruled that they should be dismissed because it was redundant to charge both the company and individual defendants.

The Court decided it was not.

"Because the defendants have not demonstrated that the plaintiff would be unable to recover under any set of facts admissable under the complaint, they are not entitled to obtain a dismissal of the individual defendants," Dickson wrote.

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