Law School Case Brief
Clark v. Acco Sys. - 39532 ( La. App. 2 Cir 04/06/05), 899 So. 2d 783
Absent a specific contract or agreement establishing a fixed term of employment, an "at will" employee is free to quit at any time without liability to his or her employer and, likewise, may be terminated by the employer at any time, provided the termination does not violate any statutory or constitutional provision. La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2747. Beyond that, the reasons for termination need not be accurate, fair or reasonable. In fact, there need be no reason at all for termination.
Defendant Acco Systems, Inc. ("Acco") employed two kinds of supervisors. Its "salaried superintendents" were considered a fixed expense, and they were paid a salary and benefits. Acco claims that it used these salaried superintendents to fill its job supervision needs to the maximum extent possible. Acco also employed "non-salaried superintendents, who were employed as needed and were paid on an hourly basis for the time they actually worked. They did not participate in Acco's benefit plan. Acco obtained a contract to for work at a General Motors plant ("GM plant"). Mike Gould was designated by Acco to be its site manager at the GM plant. On Nov. 28, 2001, Acco hired plaintiff Floyd R. Clark as a "non-salaried superintendent" for the GM plant project. It was undisputed that Clark did not have an employment contract for a specific period of time—he was an "at will" employee. Clark worked under Gould. In March 2002, one of Acco's "salaried superintendents," Melvin Melton, completed a job in Brazil, and Acco made the decision to move Melton to the GM plant project. As a result of this move, Clark was terminated and notified of his termination on March 8, 2002. Clark's duties were assumed by Melton. Clark filed a lawsuit against Acco in Louisiana state court on claims of wrongful termination and damage to his reputation. After a period of discovery, Acco filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Clark appealed.
Was Clark wrongfully terminated by Acco?
The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court held that absent a specific contract or agreement establishing a fixed term of employment, an "at will" employee could be terminated by an employer at any time and without any reason. It was undisputed that Clark was an "at will" employee. Even if Acco did, in fact, give a false reason for his termination, it was immaterial, as long as its "false" reason for termination was not a pretext for a termination that would have been otherwise illegal under federal or Louisiana law. There was no such showing in the instant case. Finally, Clark's claim of damage to his reputation, (presumably intentional infliction of emotional distress), was without merit. He failed to prove that co-worker was responsible for posting a photograph of Clark at the guard house or that the incident somehow damaged his reputation.
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