In 2010, Kathryn Sheppard filed a “wrongful discharge” complaint (under Oregon law) in federal district court against her former employer, David Evans and Associates, an architecture and engineering firm with offices across the US. Prior to her termination, Sheppard requested Family Medical Leave for a serious illness. She qualified for both Oregon Family Medical Leave and federal Family Medical Leave. Sheppard was terminated immediately after she scheduled the surgery for which she requested Family Medical Leave. Sheppard claims that her attempt to use Family Medical Leave was a substantial motivating factor for her termination, and was therefore a wrongful act in violation of public policy under Oregon law. Sheppard also claims that as a result of her termination, she lost and continues to lose wages and benefits, and suffered and continues to suffer emotional pain and a sense of degradation.
The district court dismissed Sheppard’s complaint for failure to state a claim. Sheppard then filed an amended complaint alleging the same causes of action and adding some factual details. The district court again dismissed Sheppard’s amended complaint, concluding she had “failed to plead any cause of action with sufficient factual detail to state a claim.”
Under Oregon law, an employee may bring a claim for wrongful discharge “when the discharge is for exercising a job-related right that reflects an important public policy.” Examples of “exercising a job-related right that reflects an important public policy,” include an employee filing for workers compensation, or an employee taking leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act. On September 12, 2012, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of Sheppard’s amended complaint, holding that her “allegations are sufficient to state a claim for wrongful discharge.”