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Rackley v. Fairview Care Centers, Inc.

23 P.3d 1022 (2001)

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Rackley v. Fairview Care Centers, Inc.

Utah Supreme Court

23 P.3d 1022 (2001)

Facts

Cathleen Rackley (plaintiff) worked as the administrator of Fairview West, a nursing home owned by Fairview Care Centers, Incorporated (Fairview) (defendant). Rackley’s manager, Karleen Merkley, informed many staff members, but not Rackley, that one of the nursing-home residents, Ms. Mellen, was expected to receive a check and that she was not to be notified of its arrival. Instead, Sharon Mellen, Ms. Mellen’s daughter-in-law, planned to inform Ms. Mellen of the check personally. When the check arrived, Sharon retrieved the check and deposited it into Ms. Mellen’s bank account. At some point, Rackley learned of the check’s arrival and deposit by Sharon and notified Ms. Mellen of these facts. Ms. Mellen was upset that Sharon had taken the check and deposited it without her knowledge. Ms. Mellen had Rackley contact Sharon via phone at Sharon’s place of work. The phone call between Rackley and Sharon was contentious. Sharon contacted the owner of Fairview to complain about Rackley and the phone call, describing it as unprofessional. The owner reprimanded Merkley and another manager for not telling Ms. Mellen about her check and instituted a new policy that residents be notified of all incoming funds. Rackley was reprimanded and subsequently terminated for calling Sharon at her place of work. Rackley brought a public-policy-wrongful-discharge claim against Fairview. Rackley argued, among other things, that a clear and substantial public policy may be derived from the Utah Admin. Code R432-150-4.400 and 42 C.F.R. § 483.10, which both provided residents of long-term-care facilities a right to manage their financial affairs. The trial court found for Rackley, but the court of appeals reversed. The Utah Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Howe, J.)

Dissent (Durham, J.)

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