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Waddoups v. The Amalgamated Sugar Company

54 P.3d 1054 (2002)

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Waddoups v. The Amalgamated Sugar Company

Utah Supreme Court

54 P.3d 1054 (2002)

Facts

Blake Waddoups and James Sparrow (together, the employees) (plaintiffs) were employed by The Amalgamated Sugar Company (the company) (defendant). The employees loaded sugar at the company’s sugar-processing plant located in Twin Falls, Idaho. The company was headquartered in Utah. There was an accident at the Idaho plant during which human blood and flesh contaminated sugar in the conveyor-belt system and, according to the employees, also contaminated sugar in the plant’s storage silos. The employees informed the company that they did not wish to approve or participate in the shipment of the allegedly contaminated sugar to consumers, for fear of criminal liability. Thereafter, the company threatened to terminate the employees, who in turn threatened to reveal their knowledge of contaminated sugar to the media and food-safety agencies in Idaho. The company fired the employees for excessive absenteeism, which the employees believed was pretextual. The employees were union members, and the union and the company had a collective-bargaining agreement. Under the agreement, the employees could only be fired for “just cause.” The employees sued the company in Utah state court, alleging several claims, including wrongful termination of employment in violation of public policy. The trial court granted the company’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The employees appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wilkins, J.)

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