No. 1101 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from the Order of February 23, 1982 in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Civil Division, No. 262 March 1981
Joseph A. Malley, III, Media, for appellant.
Philip J. Katauskas, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Montemuro, Watkins and Cercone, JJ.
[ 328 Pa. Super. Page 301]
This appeal is taken from an order sustaining preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to appellant Joseph Cisco's complaint in trespass. The trial court held that the
[ 328 Pa. Super. Page 302]
criminal charges which were filed against Cisco provided his employer, United Parcel Service, appellee herein, with a plausible and legitimate reason for terminating his employment, and that no public policy was violated thereby. It, therefore, found that no cause of action was possible and dismissed the complaint. We affirm.
The averments of the complaint disclose that appellant, Joseph Cisco, was employed by United Parcel Service, hereinafter U.P.S., from October of 1973 until May of 1980. On a particular day in May, Cisco made a routine delivery of parcels to the residence of Dr. and Mrs. Chaplan. As a result of that delivery, appellant argues that malicious and unfounded charges of theft and trespass were brought against him, from which he was subsequently acquitted by a jury. However, prior to acquittal and while the charges were pending, representatives of U.P.S. questioned him continually about them and informed him that if he did not resign, that he would be terminated. Cisco then resigned in June 1980. After his acquittal, Cisco made repeated unsuccessful requests to be reinstated. He then filed this action in trespass and requested lost wages in the amount of Twenty-five Thousand Dollars and damages for emotional trauma, and, in the alternative, reinstatement to his former position.
These facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom have been admitted by appellee's demurrer. Gekas v. Shapp, 469 Pa. 1, 5, 364 A.2d 691, 693 (1976); Buchanan v. Brentwood Federal Savings and Loan Association, 457 Pa. 135, 139, 320 A.2d 117, 120 (1974). In determining whether a complaint is sufficient to state a cause of action, we are guided by the rule that a demurrer may be sustained only in clear cases, and all doubts must be resolved in favor of the sufficiency of the complaint. Martin v. Little, Brown and Co., 304 Pa. Super. 424, 428-9, 450 A.2d 984, 987 (1981).
[ 328 Pa. Super. Page 303]
Appellant was an at-will employee of U.P.S. "In general, there is no non-statutory cause of action for an employer's termination of an at-will employment relationship." Reuther Page 303} v. Fowler and Williams, Inc., 255 Pa. Super. 28, 31, 386 A.2d 119, 120 (1978). However, with the case of Geary v. U.S. Steel Corp., 456 Pa. 171, 319 A.2d 174 (1974), our Supreme Court established the principle that an employee at-will may have a cause of action against the employer for wrongful discharge when the discharge threatens public policy.*fn1 In Geary, the Court held that where the complaint itself discloses a plausible and legitimate reason for terminating an at-will employment relationship and no clear mandate of public policy is violated thereby, an employee at-will has no right of action against his employer for wrongful discharge. While in that case the employee's actions in vigorously expressing his reservations about a certain product of his employer were termed "praiseworthy" by the Court, it inferred that he had become a nuisance which disrupted his employer's normal operational procedures. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order of the trial court sustaining U.S. Steel's demurrer. The Court did add:
It may be granted that there are areas of an employee's life in which his employer has no legitimate interest. An intrusion into one of these areas by virtue of the employer's power of discharge might plausibly give rise to a cause of action, particularly where some recognized facet of public policy is threatened. The motion that substantive due process elevates an employer's privilege of hiring and discharging his employees to an absolute ...