Case Name: Ackerman v. State

Filed:June 15, 2018 by the Iowa Supreme Court (No. 16-0287)

Subject matter: The tort of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy is not categorically reserved for at-will employees and is available to contract employees.

While the Iowa Supreme Court had often described the tort of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy as an exception to the at-will employment doctrine, it had not exclusively characterized it as such. The Court highlighted that the tort has a distinct purpose from a breach of contract claim and that an employer that discharges against public policy commits a wrong in contract and in tort. As such, a contract employee does not surrender its rights to bring a claim for tortious conduct by entering an employment contract. Further, the existence of contract remedies does not preclude the extension of the tort to contract employees.

Justice Waterman dissented, stating that the tort was specifically created to provide a remedy for at-will employees. Justice Waterman also questioned whether this was the right case to decide the issue since Ackerman had other remedies available including a collective bargaining agreement.

Kristymarie Shipley
Kristymarie is an Associate Attorney whose practice focuses on litigation, and labor & employment. She is originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico and fluent in Spanish.