By JACK WEATHERLY
The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday refused to rehear a case it decided March 24 in favor of a worker at the Aurora Flight Services Corp. plant in Columbus.
Robert Swindol was fired by Aurora, which makes drones, because he kept a firearm locked in his vehicle parked at the plant, whose grounds were not fenced and gated.
He sued to regain his job and said the company defamed him when it told workers that Swindol had been fired for a firearms violation and could be a security risk.
Swindol’s suits were dismissed by Judge Sharion Aycock of the U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi. Swindol then appealed to the Fifth U.S. Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans, which in turn asked the Mississippi Supreme Court whether a 2006 state statute that expanded gun rights allow on duty workers to keep firearms in their locked vehicles.
Swindol appealed to the Fifth Circuit because the company is headquartered out of state, in Manassas, Va.
“While Mississippi is an at-will employment state, the doctrine is not absolute,” the Supreme Court responded. “This court repeatedly has stated that the doctrine must yield to express legislative action and/or prohibition found in federal or state law. We find that such ‘express legislative action’ and ‘state law prohibitions’ exist here.” In an at-will state, an employer does not need good cause to fire a worker.
Justice James W. Kitchens said in the order issued Thursday that “the motion [is] moot because rehearing by this court is being denied.”
Attempts to access the case in Fifth Circuit site were unsuccessful.
David O. Butts of Tupelo, attorney for Swindol, said in an email that “it appears to me that the 5th Circuit will remand” the wrongful discharge case to the [U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi] . . . . I also appealed the District Court’s dismissal of our defamation claim, which the [court] dismissed ‘without prejudice.’. . . Our claim was that labeling Mr. Swindol a ‘security risk,’ is per se defamation.”
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