Legal Encounter One
The biggest liability issue that NewCorp will face with Pat is over a claim of wrongful discharge. This will be based on NewCorp’s personnel manual that states that employees will be placed on a corrective action plan to improve performance before termination. No correction plan was given to Pat by his boss before being discharged. Pat will also be able to argue that in receiving the NewCorp personnel manual, an implied contract of employment was agreed upon based on the policies contained in the manual. The fact that he was discharged shortly after the school board meeting in which he shared views contrary to those held by some of our senior management should have no basis on any legal proceedings. We can easily argue coincidence.
The most important right that NewCorp has in battling a wrongful discharge claim is the document that Pat signed stating the company’s policy of at will employment. If Pat does files a suit of wrongful discharge, we will be able to argue that he was fully aware of the at will employment policy. If he argues that reception of the personnel manual is an implied contract, we will have precedent from the Dillon v. Champion Jogbra, Inc. case, 819 A.2d 703 (Vt. 2002), in which the judge ruled that it was not a breach of contract when another company fired an employee without cause (Jennings, 2006). In this same case the judge argued that it is the right of the company to modify the employee agreement (or personnel manual). Our personnel manual is ambiguous (as are most manuals). Any attempt to challenge the at will status will be difficult because it will most likely be left up to the interpretation of the judge or jury.
It is my recommendation that we review our at will policies contained in our manual. In preparation for a possible lawsuit we should also review past discharges carried out without granting a corrective action plan. This will show that we have had a consistent exception to the stated policy in the...