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Aiello v. United Air Lines, Inc. - 818 F.2d 1196 (5th Cir. 1987)

Rule:

In general, Texas unquestionably follows the at-will employment tenure in cases in which an employment contract, without more, is of unlimited duration.

Facts:

Appellee, a customer services agent for 18 years, was transferred from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas by appellant airlines under seniority principles contained in company regulations. As part of the transfer, she was entitled to the costs of moving the couple's two automobiles from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas-Fort Worth. Appellee, with her husband, drove one vehicle to Dallas-Fort Worth from Florida at the cost of $201.70. Appellee then turned in an expense report in which she claimed mileage for transport of the second automobile at the same cost, although she had not yet at that time driven the second vehicle to Dallas-Fort Worth. She was discharged for submitting a false expense report, although her prior record of 18 years with the company was clear and she had never received any disciplinary action of any kind. Evidence at trial submitted that another employee, Broyles, had done the same thing but was not discharged for filing a false report. The jury found that appellee had both an express and an implied contract and that appellant airlines had discharged her without good cause. The district court rendered a damage judgment on the jury verdict, and appellant sought review.

Issue:

Did appellee employee work under an express contract, and also an implied contract where she could only be terminated for good cause?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

 The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, finding that appellant's disavowal that its personnel regulations did not constitute a contract was not controlling, and the parties had a contract containing disciplinary procedural requirements that obviated the application of the at-will doctrine. The court found that sufficient evidence in the parties' stipulations supported the jury verdict that appellant did not have good cause to discharge appellee. Sufficient evidence supported jury's finding that appellee employee with a clean 18-year employment record was discharged without just cause for filing an expense report for a car not yet moved just like another employee who was not disciplined.

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