1. What is the legal issue in this case? Linda Dillon appealed her case against her employer, Champion Jogbra, on the grounds of wrongful termination. The company’s progressive policy for disciplinary action was not applied. Therefore, Dillon makes her claim that her at will status was modified according to the employee handbook and practices. Employee’s handbook should be written clearly and reviewed by legal experts (Walsh, 2010). Champion Jogbra countered that Dillon was an at-will employee and she could be terminated at any time. Dillon also, argues against that the summary of promissory estoppels is incorrect. Champion pointed out that the policies and procedures contained in the manual are for guideline purposes only, not contractual. The policies and procedures are not any part of a contract or a commitment to employees. The courts decided the disclaimer in the handbook could create an implied contract to the employees, even though the disclaimer statements states otherwise.
The disciplinary system as outline in the employee handbook was inconsistent with the at-will language relationship, disclaimer statement and the companies progressive discipline policies. Handbooks when originally devised the method to counter labor union efforts, they have “become much more legally binding” as courts have found parts to be, in effect, promises or contracts. As stated by, Allen Weitzman, with Proskauer Rose Law Firm in Florida, “That’s why every word counts,” (SHRM). When issuing employee handbooks employers should ensure every word that is in the handbook count and they are not conflicting in nature. 2. Explain what the implied contract was in the case. In this case the implied contract that Champion Jogbra faulted on was the written statements in the employee handbook that were conflicting with at-will employment relationship and the disclaimer language. The second implied contract was the impression the employer presented to Dillon giving her a false sense of job security. The employer oral statements, “it will take you four to six months to feel comfortable in the position,” presented the impression of job security and she would have time to settle in the new job.
An implied contract is not binding contract in courts. However, certain criteria are used to determine the existence of an implied contract such as: a specific promise being made; promise made frequently and consistently; and the promise was communicated to the employee just to name a few, (Walsh, 2010). An implied contract is formed between an employer and employee, even though no express, written instrument regarding the employment relationship exists. Although employment is on average is not governed by a contract, an employer may make oral or written representations to employees regarding job security or procedures that will be followed when adverse employment actions are taken. If so, these representations may create a contract for employment, (SHRM).
3. Explain how the employer breached the implied contract. Champion Jogbra breached the implied contract on the grounds within two months the supervisor informed Dillon she was not working out. Dillon also states, the supervisor had formed an opinion of her performance within ten days of her taking the new position, which the employer knew was more challenging. The company fails to provide additional training or corrective action to Dillon when they notice she wasn’t performing to their expectations. The employer breached the implied contract that it fails to go by the established guidelines as it had outlined in the employee handbook, “All actions will be carried out in a fair and consistent manner.” The employer failed to train Dillon so that they may achieve the desired actions of the employee, in which the failure by the employer is a breach of the implied contract. Champion Jogbra’s disciplinary action policy, the at-will employment relationship and the mixed messages in the manual are all misleading to the employees.
4. Explain why the disclaimer in the employee manual does not have the effect desired by the employer. Champion Jogbra employee manual was unclear and misleading. Disclaimers when used should contain language that is clear, specific and communicated effectively to the employees. Disclaimers when used should be presented in a manner that is prominent and obvious manner, (Walsh). Champion Jogbra, on one hand the employer, will provide fair and equal treatment, on another hand the employee can be terminated at anytime. These are mixed messages the employer, Jogbra was providing its employees. Policies listed in the employee handbook made the employees feel as though their job was protected, even though Champion Jogbra does not offer employment contracts.
The guidelines listed in the employee handbook as champion Jogbra so eloquently called them are not a part of an employment contract and should not be taken as such. However the guidelines were vague and gave the employees false pretense that their jobs are secured but actuality they could be terminated at anytime for any reason. The disciplinary procedures and grounds for termination at-will employees were inconsistent. The use of disclaimers should be clear and concise and should not send conflicting messages that could be miscued and employment claims later on down the road.
Walsh, D. J. (2010). Employment law for human resource practice: 2010 custom edition (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Bates, A. (June 27, 2008). Employee handbooks: every word counts. Retrieved on June 10, 2012, from http://www.shrm.org/publications/hrnews/pages/employeehandbooksevery.aspx Dannin, E. (2003). Labor and the law: News and current events from the IRRA section on labor and employment law (LEL). Retrieved on Jun 7, 2012 from http://www.lera.uiuc.edu/pubs/newsletters/LELNewsletters/2003/2003-02.htm Garmisa, Steven. January 17, 2003. Decision in firing case takes dim view of at-will employment doctrine. Retrieved on June 7, 2012, from http://www.felahfd.com/node/331 Retrieved on June 7, 2012, from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/vt-supreme-court/1461561.html