Many people believe that they have the inviolable right of self-defense and that exercising this right cannot result in termination of employment. This issue was recently examined at some length by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Hoven v Walgreen, Docket No. 13-1011 (6th Cir. Mich, June 2, 2014). Hoven was a licensed pharmacist employed full-time at Walgreen. Hoven while at work in 2007 was subjected to an armed robbery. Hoven requested Walgreen to beef up security, but when it failed to do so, Hoven sought handgun training and eventually obtained a CPL (concealed pistol license). After receiving his CPL, Hoven began carrying a handgun at work. Several years later, Hoven was subjected to another armed robbery at work. One of the robbers “jerked” at the trigger of his gun according to Hoven. Hoven responded by firing his gun. Fortunately, no one was actually shot or injured during incident. Hoven was subsequently fired by Walgreen. Hoven sued Walgreen and alleged that Walgreen violated Michigan public policy which Hoven stated granted him the right of self-defense and the right to carry a concealed handgun. Ultimately, Walgreen successfully moved for a dismissal of the case which was appealed to the 6th Circuit which rendered the interesting opinion.
The 6th Circuit correctly stated that Michigan law presumes that employment is “AT-WILL” and that employment relationships can be terminated by the employer or employee at any time for any reason or no reason. However, terminations of an “at-will” employment relationship are actionable if the termination violates a public policy. The 6th Circuit cited Suchodolski v Michigan Consol. Gas Co., 316 NW2d 710, 711 (1982) for the “violation of public policy” exception to the broad right to terminate at-will employment. Under Suchodolski a termination will violate public policy if:
The employer fires the employee in violation of a statute that prohibits discharge where an employee is acting in accordance with a statutory right or duty.
The 6th Circuit noted that the criminal defense of using force in self-defense was not created by statute but by a Criminal Jury Instruction. The 6th Circuit reviewed Michigan’s Self-Defense Act (MCL 780.951 et seq) and determined that, while the statute relates to self-defense, it does not grant a statutory right to exercise self-defense. In fact, the Self-Defense Act merely creates a rebuttable presumption in either a civil or criminal case that a person who uses deadly force in self-defense acts properly if he has an “honest and reasonable belief” that death, sexual assault or great bodily harm will occur. Justice Neff, writing for the Court, stated: “The fact that the statute immunizes an individual who meets its requirements from criminal consequences but not civil liability demonstrates that it does not confer an unlimited right to engage in self-defense-it only provides a potential defense to criminal prosecution by the state.”
The 6th Circuit also rejected that the argument that the CPL statute (MCL 28.421) does not grant the public the unfettered right to carry a concealed weapon in the workplace. The 6th Circuit noted that the statute specifically recognized that a Michigan employer can legitimately prohibit employees from carry a concealed pistol during employment.
The 6th Circuit was constrained to follow the narrow exceptions of the Suchodolski case. If this issue arises in the Michigan state court system, it is forseeable that the Michigan courts may revisit the Suchodolski exceptions. Under current law, there is a palpable tension between the employer’s right to control concealed weapons in the workplace and the employees’ right to protect himself.
Until this issue is visited by Michigan courts, employees who work in high-risk occupations must balance their personal safety against the possibility of termination if they draw a concealed weapon in self-defense.
News and blog articles presented in this website are distributed for general information purposes only with the understanding that the author, publisher and distributor of articles is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters and, accordingly, GGTM assumes no liability whatsoever in connection with the use of any article. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, this communication may constitute Attorney Advertising.