02/22/2013 05:07:00 PM EST
Tortious Interference with Business Expectancy Requires More Than Usual Workplace Conflict
Jennifer Taylor worked for Allied Waste Industries. When
Allied merged with Republic Services, Inc., Taylor found the new management's
style different and problematic. Her new supervisors were described as
"micromanagers," and Taylor clashed with them over many issues,
including her job performance with which her supervisors' were dissatisfied.
Taylor attempted to resolve the issues through the Human Resources office, but
ultimately separated from Republic. According to Taylor, she would have
continued employment with Republic but for the allegedly tortious actions of
her supervisors. Taylor sued Republic and her supervisors for various torts
interference with business expectancy. Defendants moved for summary
judgment on the tortious interference claim.
To state a claim for tortious interference in Virginia, a
plaintiff must prove: (1) a valid contractual relationship or business
expectancy; (2) knowledge of the relationship or expectancy on the part of the
interferer; (3) intentional interference inducing or causing a breach or
termination of the relationship or expectancy; and (4) resultant damage to the
party whose relationship or expectancy has been disrupted. In an at-will employment situation such as this, the plaintiff
must also prove that the method of interference was improper. Improper methods
of interference include means that are contrary to law or regulation and
methods that employ violence, threat, intimidation, or fraud. Actions motivated
by spite do not necessarily constitute improper means.
A tortious interference claim usually requires three
actors - two parties to the contract and a third party who interferes with the
contract, so typically, the alleged interferer is not a party to the contract.
However, a tortious interference claim may lie where an agent of one of
the contractual parties acts outside the scope of his employment in
tortiously interfering with the contract. An act is within the scope of
employment if (1) it was expressly or impliedly directed by the employer or is
naturally incident to the business, and (2) it was performed with the intent to
further the employer's interest.
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at the Virginia
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