Former Pillar Enterprises Employee Alleges Wrongful Discharge for Refusing to Use or Sell Drugs at Work

Terry Harden, a client of The Employment Law Group® law firm, is suing his Connecticut employer Berlin Steel Construction Co. and its Virginia steel fabricator subsidiary Pillar Enterprises for allowing plant manager Randy Glass to promote illegal drug use at work and favor drug-using employees over those who refuse to use drugs. In the complaint Harden filed in Frederick County Circuit Court in Virginia, he alleges the following:

  • Glass purchased oxycodone, a prescription painkiller and controlled substance, from employees he supervised;
  • Prescription drugs, cocaine, and heroin were prevalent at work;
  • Harden frequently observed Glass and other employees leaving the bathroom “with glassy and bloodshot eyes, impaired motor skills, and slurred speech;”
  • Upon reporting Glass’s behavior to other supervisors, they told him that they “weren’t surprised” and “that’s Glass for you.”
  • Harden, who had approximately twenty-six years of experience in the welding and fabrication industry, was laid off while employees who supplied Glass with drugs and who had lower seniority were not laid off.

Terry Harden alleges that his employer wrongfully discharged him in violation of public policy. The Virginia Supreme Court first recognized the common law tort of wrongful discharge in 1985 in the case of Bowman v. State Bank of Keysville. In Virginia, the state where Harden was employed, ordinarily employees are employed-at-will and can quit for any reason and can be fired or laid off for any reason (unless a contract stipulates a length of time for employment). However, wrongful discharge is an important exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. An employee will prevail on a claim of wrongful discharge by showing that any of the following occurred:

  1. The employer interfered with the employee’s exercise of a statutory right or civil obligation;
  2. The employee refused to engage in illegal activity; or
  3. The employee reported illegal conduct to supervisors or government authorities.

For more information on the tort of wrongful discharge, click here.

Harden is represented by R. Scott Oswald and Nicholas Woodfield, principal attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm.