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Galle v. Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

July 2, 2015

STEVEN EDWARD GALLE
v.
ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC.; RIVERBOAT CORPORATION OF MISSISSIPPI a/k/a ISLE OF CAPRI CASINO-HOTEL BILOXI a/k/a DIVISION AND PROPERTY OF ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC.; JAMES B. PERRY, AS CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., AND JAMES B. PERRY, INDIVIDUALLY; VIRGINIA McDOWELL, AS PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., AND VIRGINIA McDOWELL, INDIVIDUALLY; LYNN BANKS, AS CORPORATE DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., AND LYNN BANKS, INDIVIDUALLY; DOUG SHIPLEY, AS GENERAL MANAGER OF RIVERBOAT CORPORATION OF MISSISSIPPI a/k/a ISLE CASINO-HOTEL BILOXI a/k/a DIVISION AND PROPERTY OF ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., AND DOUG SHIPLEY, INDIVIDUALLY; MICHAEL (MIKE) CRAY, AS DIRECTOR OF CASINO OPERATIONS, RIVERBOAT CORPORATION OF MISSISSIPPI a/k/a ISLE CASINO-HOTEL BILOXI a/k/a DIVISION AND PROPERTY OF ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., AND MICHAEL (MIKE) CRAY, INDIVIDUALLY; AND BELL KESSLER, AS SENIOR DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RESOURCES, RIVERBOAT CORPORATION OF MISSISSIPPI a/k/a ISLE CASINO-HOTEL BILOXI a/k/a DIVISION AND PROPERTY OF ISLE OF CAPRI CASINOS, INC., AND BELL KESSLER, INDIVIDUALLY

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/30/2012

HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS, JR.

TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: STEVEN EDWARD GALLE (PRO SE) MICHAEL F. CAVANAUGH

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: STEVEN EDWARD GALLE (PRO SE)

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: FRED L. BANKS, JR. LATOYA CHEREE MERRITT GREGORY TODD BUTLER MICHAEL F. CAVANAUGH

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

DICKINSON, PRESIDING JUSTICE

¶1 A former employee who claims he was discharged for reporting his employer's illegal activity seeks to bring a wrongful-discharge claim under a public-policy exception to his at-will employment status. Because the former employee participated in the allegedly illegal activity, we hold that he may not do so, and we affirm summary judgment on his wrongful-discharge claim.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. In December 2005, Steven Edward Galle began working in the poker room at Isle of Capri Casino, Inc., in Biloxi, Mississippi, as an at-will employee. In 2008, Isle of Capri promoted him to "poker room manager, " a "Key Position" requiring a "Key Employee License" from the Mississippi Gaming Commission.[1]

¶3. When Galle applied for a Key Employee License, he failed to disclose a 1994 burglary arrest in his application, and the Gaming Commission denied his application because of this oversight. Although Galle could not hold a "Key Position" in the poker room, he still could work as a poker dealer or supervisor, so Isle of Capri demoted him to poker room supervisor.

¶4. Isle of Capri later changed its logos and issued new employee identification badges. Although Galle's previous badge had indicated he was a supervisor, he was issued a new badge indicating that he was the "poker room manager." Galle told his supervisors that his badge incorrectly identified him as the poker room manager, but his immediate supervisors told him to wear the badge anyway, so he took no further steps to get a new badge, and he wore both badges, one identifying him as the supervisor, and the other as the poker room manager.

¶5. Gaming Commission enforcement agents noticed the badge that identified Galle as poker room manager and asked him about it. On one occasion, he told the agents that there was no poker room manager, but on another, he admitted he was the poker room manager. The agents reviewed Isle of Capri's employment records and determined that Galle was indeed acting as the poker room manager, so the Gaming Commission sent Isle of Capri a letter stating: "Effective immediately, you are to remove Mr. Galle from any position requiring a Key License." A month later, Isle of Capri fired Galle for "[f]ailure to execute a directive from gaming in an effective manner."

¶6. Galle sued Isle of Capri and a litany of other employees and officials, [2] alleging that Isle of Capri and its employees violated his constitutional rights, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and "unjustly terminat[ed] [him] from his job." Isle of Capri and the other named defendants who were successfully served with process responded with a motion for summary judgment on Galle's wrongful-discharge claim, arguing that Galle was an at-will employee and that he could be fired for any reason. The defendants did not request summary judgment on Galle's claims for alleged constitutional rights violations or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

ΒΆ7. After holding a hearing on the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the circuit judge summarily dismissed all of Galle's claims. The circuit judge recognized the two narrow public-policy exceptions to the at-will-employment doctrine but found that the "[p]laintiff has not provided any evidence whatsoever that either of those two exceptions exist." The circuit court also found "that [p]laintiff has produced no credible evidence ...


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