Fox v. MCI Commications Corp
In Fox v. MCI Commications Corp., 931 P.2d 857 (Utah 1997), a sales representative reported to her employer that her coworkers were "making existing customer accounts appear new on the corporate records so that they could meet sales quotas and earn higher commissions." Id. at 858-59.
She was terminated shortly after reporting her coworkers' practices. Id. The employee claimed she had been terminated in violation of public policy because her internal reporting furthered the public policy found in the sections of the Utah Code that criminalized computer-assisted fraud, Utah Code Ann. 76-6-703 (1995), and "acts of fraud or embezzlement," Utah Code Ann. 76-6-403, 405 (1995), as well as a statute regulating corporate responsibility, Utah Code Ann. 76-2-204 (1995). Fox, 931 P.2d at 859.
The Court disagreed. Id. at 861. While we recognized that the criminal code implicated a clear and substantial public policy, id. at 860, the Court held that "if an employee reports a criminal violation to an employer, rather than to public authorities, and is fired for making such reports, that does not, in our view, contravene a clear and substantial public policy." Id.
In so holding, we explained that "although employees may have a duty to disclose information concerning the employer's business to their employer, that duty ordinarily serves the private interest of the employer, not the public interest." Id. at 861. The Court recognized:
An at-will employee may overcome that presumption by demonstrating that:
(1) there is an implied or express agreement that the employment may be terminated only for cause or upon satisfaction of another agreed-upon condition;
(2) a statute or regulation restricts the right of an employer to terminate an employee under certain conditions; or;
(3) the termination of employment constitutes a violation of a clear and substantial public policy.
In that case, the Court further remarked that not every employment termination that has the effect of violating some public policy is actionable:
"A public policy whose contravention is achieved by an employment termination must be 'clear and substantial' to be actionable." Id. at 860.