DEBORAH HARPER; TRACEY EVERITT; MICHELLE PARKER; JANA LEINEWEBER; and JANET SABOL, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
STATE OF ARIZONA, Defendant/Appellee.
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV2015-002273
The Honorable Robert H. Oberbillig, Judge
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Ann Hobart
Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.
Broening Oberg Woods & Wilson PC, Phoenix By Terrence P.
Woods and Brian Holohan Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants.
Presiding Judge Andrew W. Gould delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Judge Peter B. Swann and Judge Patricia A.
Deborah Harper, Tracey Everitt, Michelle Parker, Jana
Leineweber, and Janet Sabol ("Plaintiffs") appeal
the superior court's order dismissing their wrongful
termination claims against the State. Because Plaintiffs
failed to state a cognizable claim for wrongful termination,
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiffs were employees of Child Protective Services
("CPS"), a department of the Division of Children,
Youth and Families of the Arizona Department of Economic
Security. At the time of their termination, Plaintiffs held
the following postions: Harper was employed as a program
administrator, Everitt was a program manager, Parker served
as policy program manager, and Leineweber and Sabol worked as
assistant program managers.
In 2011, CPS had a backlog of "unassigned" reports
involving child abuse and neglect. CPS assembled a team that
included Plaintiffs to review and dispose of the backlog.
CPS directed Plaintiffs to develop a protocol to dispose of
unassigned reports. This protocol included designating some
of the reports as "NI, " or not investigated. Once
a report was designated "NI, " it was considered
resolved. According to Plaintiffs, they were directed to use
the "NI" designation by their superiors.
When the public learned that CPS was using the "NI"
designation to dispose of child abuse/neglect reports, there
was a firestorm of bad press and negative public backlash.
The Department of Public Safety investigated the use of the
"NI" designation and issued a report. Then, in
April 2014, Plaintiffs were terminated by the then-Director
of the Division of Child Safety and Family.
Plaintiffs filed this complaint for wrongful termination. The
State filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that
Plaintiffs had failed to allege a viable wrongful termination
claim. The superior ...