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Smith v. BlueCross BlueShield

Location: Tennessee
Court Type: Tennessee Supreme Court
Last Update: May 22, 2024

What's at Stake

This case in the Tennessee Supreme Court asks whether the right to petition is an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. The ACLU’s State Supreme Court Initiative, alongside the ACLU of Tennessee, filed an amicus brief focused on the scope and importance of the right to petition under the Tennessee Constitution.

The right to petition one’s legislators dates to pre-Magna carta England and can be found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Tennessee Constitution. In this case, the plaintiff alleges that she was fired from her private-sector job for writing to state legislators to complain about her employer’s vaccine mandate. The plaintiff filed a wrongful termination suit, arguing that Tennessee’s at -will employment doctrine is subject to a public policy exception that encompasses activity protected by the constitutional right to petition.

The district court granted the employer ’s motion to dismiss because it believed it did not have the authority to recognize new exceptions to doctrine of at-will employment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the right to petition is a strong public policy exception and that the plaintiff should have an opportunity to prove her claim. The ACLU, alongside the ACLU of Tennessee, filed an amicus brief in the Tennessee Supreme Court in support of affirmance. The brief argues that the right to petition is fundamental to democracy and is embedded in the history of the Tennessee Constitution. Moreover, it explains why significant Tennessee precedent confirms that the right to petition merits an exception to the at-will employment doctrine.


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