NOEMIE S. FRANCIS
NATIONAL ACCREDITING COMMISSION OF CAREER ARTS & SCIENCES, INC.
THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA Nolan B. Dawkins,
BERNARD GOODWYN, JUSTICE
appeal, we consider whether the Circuit Court of the City of
Alexandria erred in sustaining a demurrer to an amended
complaint alleging a claim for wrongful termination under
this Court's decision in Bowman v. State Bank of
Keysville, 229 Va. 534, 331 S.E.2d 797 (1985). For the
reasons stated below, the Court concludes that the circuit
court did not err in sustaining the demurrer. Thus the
judgment dismissing this action with prejudice is affirmed.
this is an appeal from the circuit court's decision to
sustain a demurrer to the amended complaint filed by the
appellant, Noemie S. Francis (Francis), the facts are
recounted as alleged in that pleading. Harris v.
Kreutzer, 271 Va. 188, 195-96, 624 S.E.2d 24, 28 (2006).
March 27, 2014, the National Accrediting Commission of Career
Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NACCAS) hired Francis as a
full-time administrative assistant on an at-will basis. On
January 23, 2015, while Francis was at work, Peri Blow
(Blow), another NACCAS employee, yelled obscenities at
Francis, called her derogatory names, and threatened Francis,
saying "I am going to fuck you up, and hurt you."
Approximately "a dozen" NACCAS employees witnessed
this event. Two NACCAS employees, including Shanna Love
(Love), tried to pull Blow away from Francis, but Blow
"continued to come back to [Francis] with additional
threats and vituperations."
that day, NACCAS's Executive Director, Anthony Mirando
(Mirando), and its Human Resources Director, Alicia Williams
(Williams), met with Francis, Blow, and Love to instruct them
to observe "NACCAS star core values" and improve
their behavior in the future, but NACCAS did not investigate
the incident. On January 28, 2015, Williams sent a summary of
the meeting to Francis. The summary did not address
Blow's actions, "any disciplinary measures against
Blow, " or any measures to protect Francis. Francis
emailed her supervisor and Williams to express
"concern" that the summary failed to address her
safety and that she was not "comfortable working closely
with someone" who threatened "her physical
January 30, Francis filed an ex parte petition for a
preliminary protective order (PPO) against Blow in the
General District Court of Prince William County. The court
granted the PPO on the same date, ordering Blow not to commit
any further "acts of violence, force, or threat"
against Francis, and prohibiting all contact except
"lawful conduct" with Francis.
Thursday, February 5, 2015, a police officer served the PPO
on Blow at the NACCAS office, in Williams' presence. The
following Monday, February 9, Williams informed Francis that
she was terminated effective immediately because Francis
"did not fit the vision of the organization."
11, 2015, Francis filed suit against NACCAS in the Circuit
Court of the City of Alexandria alleging wrongful discharge
in violation of public policy under Bowman. The
court sustained NACCAS's demurrer which alleged
"there are no sufficient allegations of a true public
filed an amended complaint on August 25, 2016. The amended
complaint set forth the alleged facts recounted above, and
asserted a claim for wrongful termination under
Bowman, based upon the allegations that NACCAS
wrongfully discharged her in violation of the public policy
embodied in Code §§ 19.2-152.7:1 through
19.2-152.10 (the Protective Order Statutes). She asserted
that the public policy of the Protective Order Statutes
"grants individuals the right to seek a civil protective
order 'to protect the health and safety of the
petitioner.'" Francis alleged that her
"exercise of her statutory rights in obtaining a civil
protective order . . . was at minimum a motivating factor for
her employment termination."
September 9, 2015, NACCAS filed an amended demurrer, arguing
that the amended complaint "fails to state any valid
claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy,
as [Francis] was an at-will employee and she does not
identify any statutorily protected right that NACCAS violated
by her termination."
December 9, 2015, the court sustained the amended demurrer