This Note will present and analyze two significant issues addressed by the Smith court. First, the court properly decided that state common law claims are not preempted by collective bargaining agreements or available administrative procedures. Second, the court incorrectly determined that exhaustion of administrative or contractual remedies is not a prerequisite to seeking tort relief in court. The judiciary should give deference to administrative or contractual procedures specifically designed to resolve the matter in dispute. This Note will analyze the preemption issue by first examining, in Part II, the general function of common law torts, the doctrine of employment-at-will, and the tort of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Part III reviews the policy underlying the public policy tort, a United States Supreme Court decision on preemption, and the law of other states regarding the public policy tort. Part IV analyzes the Smith court's reasoning and findings on the availability of the public policy tort in Washington. Finally, Part V addresses Washington case law on the issue of exhaustion of remedies and applies the law to the facts in Smith.
Richard A. Morris, Smith v. Bates Technical College: Washington Extends the Availability of the Tort of Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy, But a Little Too Far: Employees Should Still Exhaust Other Remedies, 25 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 677 (2002).