At issue in this appeal is whether the circuit court properly granted summary judgment as to the plaintiff's claim that his discharge from his employment with Michigan Consolidated Gas Company was improper as contrary to public policy. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment for the defendant. We agree that summary judgment was appropriate and affirm.
The plaintiff began working for Michigan Consolidated Gas Company in September, 1972, as a senior auditor. He was discharged in January, 1976, and brought this action in 1978, stating various theories of recovery in a six-count complaint. Only one count is relevant to the present appeal.
"35. That plaintiff was terminated for attempting to report and correct such questionable procedures as the shifting of losses from appliance sales to the rate payers, uncollectable accounts receivable and the selling of automobiles and office equipment to employees of defendant corporation for very low prices.
"36. That defendant's discharge of plaintiff for attempting to report and correct the aforementioned practices was retaliatory and against the public policy of this state."
In affirming the summary judgment, the Court of Appeals noted that a "public policy" exception has developed to the general rule that either party to an employment contract for an indefinite term may terminate it at any time for any reason. The Court discussed at length the decision in Sventko v Kroger Co, 69 Mich.App. 644; 245 N.W.2d 151 (1976). In that case, the plaintiff claimed that she was discharged because she had filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. The Court held that this stated a claim for which relief could be granted.
However, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals found Sventko inapplicable:
"We think that the Sventko case is factually distinguishable from the present case which involves a corporate management dispute and no clear mandate of public policy."
We granted leave to appeal.
In general, in the absence of a contractual basis
The courts have also occasionally found sufficient legislative expression of policy to imply a cause of action for wrongful termination even in the absence of an explicit prohibition on retaliatory discharges. Such a cause of action has been found to be implied where the alleged reason for the discharge of the employee was the failure or refusal to violate a law in the course of employment. Thus, in Trombetta v Detroit, T & I R Co, 81 Mich.App. 489; 265 N.W.2d 385 (1978), the Court said that it would have been impermissible to discharge an employee for refusing to falsify pollution control reports that were required to be filed with the state.
In addition, the courts have found implied a
The plaintiff relies on two sources to establish that a "public policy" would be violated by allowing his discharge to stand. First, he argues that the Code of Ethics of the Institute of Internal Auditors is such an expression of public policy. Second, he points to the extensive regulation of the accounting systems of public utilities by the Public Service Commission. E.g., MCL 483.113; MSA 22.1323. He maintains that his complaints about the internal accounting practices of the defendant, which he alleges led to his discharge, related to matters that could have interfered with the Public Service Commission's ability to perform its regulatory functions.
We agree with the Court of Appeals that this case involves only a corporate management dispute and lacks the kind of violation of a clearly mandated public policy that would support an action for retaliatory discharge. The code of ethics of a private association does not establish public policy. Nor is the regulation of public utilities sufficient to sustain the plaintiff's action. The regulation of the accounting systems of utilities is not, as is the workers' compensation statute, directed
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
COLEMAN, C.J., and KAVANAGH, WILLIAMS, LEVIN, FITZGERALD, RYAN, and BLAIR MOODY, JR., JJ., concurred.
The plaintiff has not appealed the judgment as to four of the counts.