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Missouri Court of Appeals rules Jan 2009 that the “exclusive cause” standard applies to proving a “public policy discharge” case

The case is Fleshner v. Pepose Vision Institute, where the appeals court reversed an employee’s jury verdict because the trial court did not use the “exclusive cause” standard

(We hope the Missouri Supreme Court will fix this problem one day)

You can read Fleshner v. Pepose Vision Institute (PDF file) for yourself.

Here’s why I am writing about this – For many years, the courts of Missouri have applied this absurd “exclusive cause” standard to Workers Comp Retaliation cases. See that article for a criticism of the exclusive cause standard.

Now, the courts have clearly expanded the reach of the “Exclusive Cause” standard – expanded it to reach the type of Wrongful Termination case that we call “Public Policy Discharge”. You can read about Public Policy Discharge in my Wrongful Termination article linked above.

“Exclusive Cause” is a court-created concept that does not appear in the written laws.

I’m not going to repeat all of my harsh critique of the Exclusive Cause standard that I put in my Workers Comp Retaliation article, but I do want to say something about it: Hardly anything has an “exclusive cause” – everything has multiple causes, some of which are major and some of which are minor.

The concept of “Exclusive Cause” is more of an academic philosophical subject than it is a real world standard of proof that has meaning to real people. Here’s a hypothetical —

Let’s say a man and his boss had an argument and the man killed his boss, and the man was fired. This firing would be perfectly legal. Even so, let’s talk about whether the killing was the “Exclusive cause” of the firing. I would argue that the killing was a major cause, but not the “Exclusive Cause.” For example, let’s say the boss treated the employee rudely, provoking him, and that the man would not have killed his boss if the boss had treated him considerately. For another example, maybe the employee has a deficiency in his brain such that he lacks normal ability to control his temper, making it easier for him to be provoked to violence, etc etc —- you see how it goes? So it is possible to argue that there were multiple causes for a firing, even though the major cause was the killing of the boss.

A much better standard would be “Direct Result”. In our example, the employee’s firing was clearly the direct result of having killed his boss.

I hope you can see that the term “Exclusive Cause” is unworkable.


***** END OF ARTICLE ***** Missouri Employment Law

Maintained by Attorney Phil Willoughby
Founded by Tim Willoughby, Esq. (1959-2013)

Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City. He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association. Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City. He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.

Missouri Bar Website (To view the directory of lawyers).

Phil Willoughby, Attorney
Licensed in Missouri and Kansas

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9800 NW Polo, Suite 100
Kansas City, MO 64153
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