Employment contracts in Wisconsin are presumed to be at will, meaning that they can be terminated at any time without cause.
Plaintiff employee sued defendant employer for unpaid wages and other compensation under Wis. Stat. ch. 109, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment relating to his employment as a sales person. Defendant employer moved for summary judgment and contended that because its 2008 compensation plan constituted a contract with the plaintiff employee, the employee had no equitable relief available. Plaintiff employee disagreed, insisting that the compensation plan was not a contract. In the alternative, he moved for leave to amend his complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2) to add a claim of breach of contract. and to withdraw his wage claim under Wis. Stat. ch. 109, admitting that he was not an employee as that term was defined in the statute. The court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, denied the employee's motion for leave to amend the complaint, and closed the case.
Was defendant's compensation plan inconsistent with plaintiff's at-will status thus precluding him from being terminated?
The court found that there was an enforceable contract between the employee and the employer with respect to the payment of commissions. Thus, the employee was not entitled to equitable relief. The compensation plan was not inconsistent with plaintiff's at-will status; he still could be terminated at any time for any reason. The plan merely set forth how defendant would pay plaintiff for orders that he procured. The fact that an employee is at will does not mean that the employer and employee can never enter a valid contract related to other aspects of the employee's employment. Under Wisconsin law, the only possible claim that the employee might have had against the employer for unpaid commissions was breach of contract. Accordingly, the employee's claims of quantum meruit and unjust enrichment had to be dismissed. The court also found that justice did not require granting the employee leave to amend his complaint because he waited too long to file his request, and further, granting leave would cause undue prejudice to the employer.