1. What were the legal issues in this case?
The legal issues in the case of Dillon v. Champion Jogbra are implied contract, just cause and promissory estoppel. The implied contract was first established when Dillion was approached by her manager that the sales position would be coming open and recommended that she apply for the position. She was then granted the job along with the promise of extensive training and that her training would overlap with the departing employee. She was also informed by her new supervisor that the job would require about six months to perform comfortably on the job and not to worry about it, which was another promise.
Just cause for the discharge was established when her termination was inconsistent with the rule termed “Corrective action Procedure” that Champion Jogbra developed as a progressive discipline procedure. Dillon was aware of this procedure from her friendly relationship with the HR manager who told her that people cannot just be gotten rid of it. There are consistent procedures in place for dealing with such employees before they can be terminated. Dillon was not allowed this procedure which was previously used consistently with other employees. The promissory estoppel was established with the breach of the specific promise of extensive training and the time to be comfortable with the job which is summarized as job security for taking the new positon.
2. Explain what the implied contract was in this case.
The implied contract was with the promises of her job security which was made regarding the extensive training and the four to six month projected time to learn the job. Without prior notification or warning, Dillon was called into a meeting with her immediate supervisor and her HR manager just about a month later of accepting the job. She was informed that she would be reassigned to a temporary position at the same rate of pay and that she could also interview for other jobs within the company. If she was unable to secure a position by December, she would be terminated. This sequence of actions did not follow the “Corrective Action Procedure” that Champion Jogbra had in their handbook or what was actually practiced. In addition, it was stated that this supervisor said she would not work out just ten days after taking the job and only receiving two days training.
He was the person of authority who made the promises frequently and consistently. These promises where communicated to Dillon where she then developed a sense of security. The supervisor’s comment of her not working out in just ten days is not sufficient time to determine if someone is a good fit for a role and the lack of training per the promise was another part of the implied contract which was also broken.. Legally, the elements of an express contract are: “(1) an offer by one party and an acceptance by the other, (2) consideration, in particular something of value contributed by each party and (3) a mutuality of intent— specifically, a meeting of the minds regarding the provisions of the agreement and can be either written or oral” (Pekinpaugh, 1998, para. 3).
3. Explain how the employer breached the implied contract.
The employer breached the implied contract by not providing sufficient training, time on the job and not following their own” Corrective Action Procedures” as laid out in their handbook which facilitated the breach. The handbook clearly stated that they reserve the right to terminate any employee at any time “at will” with our without cause. But because they also called out their “Corrective Action Procedure” and stated that it would apply to all employees and be carried out in a fair and consistent manner”, their lack of following the handbook also breached the contract (Walsh, 2010, p 589). Employer handbooks can be a legally binding contract. If there are procedures in the handbook that have termination procedures, they are usually legally bound to follow those procedures before an employee can be terminated. “Disciplinary procedures require procedures require warnings, suspensions, etc. before an employee can be fired” (LaMance, 2012, para. 3). Dillon also did not receive this warning or the “Corrective Action Procedure”. This procedure was communicated to employees and stated that it would be carried out in a fair and consistent manner.
This was not the case for Dillon as her termination was not fair and consistent. 4. Explain why the disclaimer in the employee manual does not have the effect desired by the employer. The disclaimer in the employee manual does not have the desired effect because the employer included the “Corrective Action Procedure” in it. According to Walsh, (2010), an employee handbook that outlines specific disciplinary procedures, which was sufficiently specific and authoritative, forms an implied contract. Statements made by managers determine the existence of an implied contract especially those that promise the employee something. Past practices also include implied contract for example, following the consistent termination procedures with all other employees and not for another. The employer loses their case when they have made specific promises to employees regarding the term of their employment, permissible reason for termination or termination procedures which must be honored.
If Champion Jogbra wanted to truly have an “at will” employment, they should not make promises and carefully write their handbooks. Even though the disclaimer was capitalized and in large print, it was not foolproof. Because the “Corrective Action Procedures were included, the handbook gave mixed messages. Along with the “employer’s practices of consistent termination, the handbook created ambiguity as to whether an implied contract existed” (Walsh, 2010, p 593). Champion Jogbra could have another claim against them with the way their handbook was written. It determined an implied contract with the “covenant of good faith and fair dealing”. This “covenant only applies where there is an implied contract and the employer has used termination to deprive an employee of an already earned benefit” (Walsh, 2010, p 594). Although this was not mention in the case, Dillon did not receive fair dealing and she was deprived of her already earned benefit. She could also file this claim and very likely win.
Walsh, D. J. (2010). Employment law for human resource practice: 2010 custom edition (3rd
ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
LaMance, K. (2012) Employee handbooks: At will employees. Retrieved from web
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Peckinpaugh, C. (1998) What are implied contracts? The business of federal technology. Retrieved from web December 16, 2012.