Tortious Interference with Business Expectancy Requires More Than Usual Workplace Conflict

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 including tortious 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.

Read the rest of the article at the Virginia Business Litigation Lawyer blog

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