In ?Weiss ?v. ?Lonnquist, ?the? plaintiff? was ?an attorney? associate ?employed ?by? the ?defendant. As part of her employment, Weiss was requested to prepare a summary judgment response in? a case alleging disability discrimination and/or retaliation.????? ?The? ?employee? ?represented? ?by Lonnquist?s firm alleged that she was terminated in retaliation for having requested a medical leave. The employer in the disability discrimination case alleged? ?that? ?the? ?employee? ?had? ?already?? been notified that she would be terminated from employment, and therefore her request for medical leave could not have been a motivating factor in the decision to terminate her. After reviewing the file, Weiss discovered a faxed message from the client indicating that she knew that she was about to be laid off before she requested a medical leave. But in her deposition, the client testified the reason for her termination? was ?her ?request ?for medical leave.?? ?Weiss concluded that the deposition testimony?? was? ?incompatible? ?with? ?the? ?faxed message, and that Lonnquist had perpetuated the false testimony.?? After consulting with an ethics experts, Weiss refused to continue working on the case.? ?Lonnquist wrote the summary judgment response herself, and maintained that the client did not know that she would be terminated before requesting a medical leave, only that she was going to be offered a severance agreement, the terms of which offered the client various benefits including three months? notice and three months? severance pay.
Approximately two weeks later Lonnquist gave Weiss 30 days? notice of her termination from employment.? ?Lonnquist argued that Weiss was terminated from employment because she failed to generate sufficient revenue.? ?Weiss declined to return? ?to?? work,?? relying ?upon?? her ?physician?s advice. ?Weiss believed that a substantial factor in the decision to terminate her employment was her refusal to violate the public policy reflected in the Rules of Professional Conduct including RPC 3.3, which ?mandates ?candor? toward ?a? tribunal. Although Weiss considered a complaint with the WSBA, she declined to file a complaint because she ?wanted to pursue a civil action and  knew that they would put the bar complaint on hold if a civil action was pending.? ?She also believed that the bar process was inadequate because it would not address wrongful termination.?? Weiss brought suit alleging inter alia wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The?? case?? went? ?to? ?trial? ?on? ?the?? wrongful termination ?theory and ?a? claim ?of ?lost ?wages. The jury found for Weiss and the Court entered judgment for damages in the amount of $36,465, and $128,386 in attorney fees.?? ?Lonnquist appealed. ?After the case was tried and appealed, the Washington Supreme Court decided Cudney v. ALSOCO, Inc., 172 Wn.2d 524, 259 P.3d 244 (2011).
The Court of Appeals concluded that ?[t]he jeopardy element sets up a relatively high bar.? In particular, plaintiff must show ?that other means of promoting the public policy are inadequate.? ??The question of whether adequate alternative means for promoting a public policy exist presents a question of law as long as ?the inquiry is limited to examining existing laws to determine whether they provide adequate alternative means of promoting the public policy.?? Citing Cudney, 172 Wn.2d at 528-29, quoting Korslund, 156 Wn.2d at 182.?? Relying upon Cudney, the Court concluded that the trial court erred by failing to grant summary judgment in Lonnquist?s favor. ?The Court concluded as a matter of law that, despite the lack of any remedy for Weiss, the disciplinary process provided by the WSBA was an adequate alternative remedy to foreclose the jeopardy element of the wrongful discharge claim: ?The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that it does not matter whether or not the alternative means of enforcing the public policy grants ?a particular? aggrieved employee any private remedy.? (Emphasis original). ?The Court explained that ?[w]e might have a different case if Weiss had reported Lonnquist to the bar association and had been discharged for taking that action.??? The Court rejected? Weiss?s argument that a report to the Bar Association would have required her to disclose confidential information in violation of RPC 1.6. ?A Petition for Review is pending.
WELA filed an amicus curiae brief in support of a more expansive interpretation of the public policy tort.
Weiss v. Lonnquist,—Wn. App. —, 293 P.3d 1264 (Div. I 2/4/13) (Becker, Dwyer, Appelwick).