Not All Untruthfulness Should Lead to Termination
Thomas Wetherington was a trooper for the North Carolina State Patrol. In 2009 he made a traffic stop of a truck along U.S. 70, when the traffic stop ended he went to check on a car that pulled along the side of the road in front of the truck. During his approach to the second car an 18-wheeler drove by and later Wetherington noticed his hat was missing. He looked along the road and saw the gold acorns from his hat on the road.
Wetherington contacted his sergeant and told him that his hat blew off his head when the 18-wheeler drove by. The sergeant later had a detailed conversation with him regarding how the hat was lost. Witherington maintained his story and elaborated the story with more detail. In fact, the owner of the truck in the first traffic stop had the hat and the owner turned it in to the Patrol weeks later. The Patrol then opened an investigation and Wetherington broke down stating that he did not know what had happened to his hat and had no idea where it was when this happened. Wetherington said that he received advice from another officer on what to say.
The Patrol fired Wetherington for dishonesty as the Colonel of the Patrol stated that a member who is untruthful must be terminated. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned Wetherington’s termination. The Court concluded that the Colonel’s view that he had no choice but to terminate Wetherington is a misapprehension of the law. The application of this inflexible standard deprives management of discretion. The Court states that a rule requiring the dismissal for all violations of the truthfulness policy was an error of law.
Wetherington v. North Carolina Department of Public Safety, 2015 WL 9257697 (N.C. 2015)