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FACT SUMMARY 

Jasper was hired as the director of Kid University (KU), a child care facility in Johnston, Iowa. She was paid an hourly wage, and there were no specific terms of employment. A short time after Jasper started her employment, the husband and wife owners of KU announced that the facility would need to cut staff in order to reduce overhead. Jasper complained that any staff cuts would place KU in jeopardy of violating state administrative regulations related to the minimum ratios between staff and children. The issue of the staff-children ratio was the source of considerable tension between Jasper and KU’s owners. The owners insisted that Jasper find a way to cut staff expenses, and Jasper continued to assert that the current staffing was necessary for compliance with state regulations. The owners eventually proposed that Jasper and her assistant director begin to work in the classroom to help reduce staffing costs. However, Jasper protested any job responsibility change and asserted that the staffing ratio would still not be compliant with state regulations. Soon thereafter, KU terminated Jasper from her employment at the facility.

Jasper brought a wrongful-discharge suit against KU and its owners, claiming that her firing was based on her refusal to violate the staff-children ratio and that such a termination was a violation of public policy. The trial court found in favor of KU because Jasper was an employee at-will and had not demonstrated that KU violated “well-recognized and clearly defined public policy.” The trial court held that the public policy exception could not apply because the staff-children ratio was an administrative rule and was not mandated by statute. The court of appeals reversed and found in Jasper’s favor, holding that, even absent a statute, a clear public policy existed that child care centers be adequately staffed.