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Oprah Winfrey Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Highlights PEO Need

The issue of wrongful termination of an employee where concerns a no-term, at will employment arrangement can be a tricky one at times. And it appears to be tricky times indeed for Oprah Winfrey and a former employee of hers, who maintains innocence in the midst of a sudden firing by the talk show host.

A wrongful termination lawsuit has been brought against the media mogul and her Harpo Inc. by her former stewardess Corinne Gehrls.

Gehrls is firing back at allegations that she and married pilot Terry Pansing did the nasty during a flight with Winfrey on board her posh private jet -- claims which resulted in their July 7 termination.

Also named in the Chicago defamation suit are fellow flight attendants Myron Gooch and Kirby Bumpus—who happens to be the daughter of Oprah BFF Gayle King. The canned stewardess says the two "falsely told Winfrey and Harpo" that she and Pansing "had been observed having inappropriate intimate contact outside the cockpit of the plane."

Gehrls has vehemently denied the allegations, going so far as to take—and pass—a polygraph test on the advice of her lawyer. Pansing reportedly did the same. Winfrey's former employee is seeking $75,000 plus costs, attorney's fees and other damages.

An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other. This presumption may be superseded by a contract, express or implied, limiting the employer's right to discharge the employee. Absent any contract, however, the employment is 'at will,' and the employee can be fired with or without good cause. But the employer's right to discharge an 'at will' employee is still subject to limits imposed by public policy, since otherwise the threat of discharge could be used to coerce employees into committing crimes, concealing wrongdoing, or taking other action harmful to the public. Accordingly, while an at-will employee may be terminated for no reason, or for an arbitrary or irrational reason, there can be no right to terminate for an unlawful reason or a purpose that contravenes fundamental public policy.

Are you in need of a PEO, which can help settle and arbitrate disputes such as these? Wouldn't you rather delegate this kind of situation to a Professional Employer Organization? Choose from our directory of accomplished PEOs today, and discover the difference in operational efficiency and profitability. For more info on how a PEO can benefit a company, please visit

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