Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Case: US: Public Policy of complaint to police

In the recent case of Rayburn v Wady Industries,Vicki Rayburn worked with John Miller at Wady Industries.

Vicki and John commenced a relationship, split up due to this drinking, got back together until one night when he had too much to drink and assaulted her. Vicki then obtained a protection order, which included a no contact clause.

The only problem was that both Vicki and John still worked at the same plant for Wady Industries. Wady Industries tried to split the two up by tarping off their work sections, but according to Vicki, John kept harassing her at work and elsewhere.

The police came out to the factory two or three times to deal with Vicki's complaints. Wady Industries then sacked Vicki.

Vicki sued. Did she have any rights to complain to police while at work?

The US District Court held that she did. It said that there was a clear public policy contained in the Iowa statute for no contact orders to be made. The court then went on to say:
The prtections provided by a no-contact order are meaningless, however, if they cannot be enforced; a victim must be allowed to inform law enforcement that the order has been violated. Therefore, the Court concludes that public policy not only favours the issuance of no-contact orders to protect victims of domestic violence, it favours the violation of a no-contact order.

The court then held that Rayburn was within her rights to have reported a breach of the no-contact order occuring at work, whilst she was at work.

This is an American case and is not binding in Australia by any means, but when one looks at the fundamental principles, the court got it right. Everyone has a fundamental right to safety from others, and should be able to complain to police without losing their job.

This is aside from the other issue of whether the employer and management would have committed a criminal offence. It would have been very difficult for Wady to have two employees working near each other, the subject of a no-contact clause. What this case illustrates, however, is the human approach- Wady, on believing that Rayburn was a "disruptive" influence, sacked her, and it would appear took no action against Miller.

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