[author: Michael C. Jacobson, J.D., XpertHR Legal Editor]
Virginia employers take notice: your employees in supervisory roles can now be sued for wrongful termination individually.
In VanBuren v. Grubb, +2012 Va. LEXIS 193 (Va. 2012), the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that employee supervisors or managers can be held personally responsible for their roles in wrongful termination of employees. This ruling is limited to claims for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, which itself is a very narrow exception to Virginia's version of the employment at-will doctrine. In rendering this decision, the court followed other states which allow individual claims against supervisors, including Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Though the court acknowledged its decision may cause employees or managers in supervisory roles to become "hesitant" to participate in terminations of employees, the court clarified that these employee managers and supervisors are only exposed to claims if their actions violate public policy considerations. As such, employers should reiterate or create directives that instruct supervisors not to terminate employees without sound, substantiated business reasons. Terminations should, whenever possible, be related to employee performance or employer economic conditions.
Terminate an At-Will Employee for Misconduct
Recruiting and Hiring > Employment At-Will: Virginia
Recruiting and Hiring > Terms of Employment: Virginia