It didn’t take long for Jorea Marple to lawyer up after being fired from her job as state Superintendent of Schools.
Marple filed suit last Friday against the state Board of Education, claiming the Board violated her rights when they let her go. She demands a full hearing on her dismissal, as well as damages.
Marple’s legal team has thrown the kitchen sink in the suit, claiming Marple has “suffered the loss of a life-time reputation, sustained extreme mental anguish and suffering, and has been impaired in her ability to enjoy life.”
One of Marple’s attorneys, Tim Barber, told Metronews that Marple’s firing is “completely and absolutely at odds with every piece of jurisprudence there is.”
Actually, it’s not.
Marple was an at-will employee, meaning she could be terminated at any time without cause.
There’s plenty of case history supporting the doctrine of will-and-pleasure employees. Just last year, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the firing of long-time Division of Culture and History Archives and History Director Fred Armstrong.
The court said, “an at-will employee… may be terminated at any time, without reason, unless the termination violates some substantial public policy.”
Marple’s attorneys argue over and over in their filing that Marple was denied “due process.” That’s a favorite catch-all when lawyers don’t have much else to argue. In this case, if the Board did not dot all the i’s and cross the t’s, it could take up the matter yet again, but the results would be the same.
At-will employees are not entitled to a job. The doctrine was formed in the 19th century so that employers and employees could define their particular relationship and part company at any time. The very idea of will-and-pleasure was to avoid the kind of caterwauling that is going on now in the Marple case.
But this is, after all, West Virginia, where seemingly the status quo must be protected at all costs. Perhaps the very reason the Marple case is getting some public traction is because the state rarely fires anyone.
In the real world, at-will employees are fired all the time. Often, it’s simply a matter of a top manager and a governing board having differing opinions about how business should be done.
That doesn’t mean anyone is wrong or evil; it may be simply different philosophies.
Meanwhile, Governor Tomblin has proposed significant reforms in public education, many that were culled from an independent audit of the school system and have been embraced by the Board. The Legislature will soon begin debate on these critical measures designed to give our children a better education.
The state is moving on. Marple should too.