Bell Microproducts Inc.
284 F.3d 86 (Massachusetts)
ISSUE OF THE CASE
Bell Microproducts, Inc. mailed to McGurn an offer of employment that stated that if McGurn were terminated without cause during the first 12 months of employment, he would receive a severance package of $120,000. McGurn crossed out 12 and replaced it with 24, and signed the contract. Bell did not acknowledge the change that had been made to the contract and hired the applicant. McGurn was terminated without cause 13 months later. FACTS
Bell Microproducts is a distributor of semiconductor parts and components with headquarters in San Jose, California. McGurn is a resident of Massachusetts. In March of 1997, Bell's President, Donald Bell, met with McGurn, who at the time was gainfully employed elsewhere, to discuss the position of Vice President for the Eastern Region at Bell. McGurn said that if he came to work for Bell he would require a written contract that included a “termination clause” stipulating that he would receive six months salary and half his commissions in the event that he was fired. During the next few months McGurn communicated several times with Bill Murphy, the Bell official to whom McGurn would report, and expressed interest in pursuing the position. Murphy's secretary prepared an offer letter and delivered it to Linda Teague, Bell's Director of Human Resources. Teague dated the letter June 10, 1997, signed it, and mailed it to McGurn. Upon receipt of the letter, McGurn telephoned Murphy to discuss the offer and the absence of a termination clause. McGurn then had a series of telephone conversations with Donald Bell in which a termination clause was discussed. On June 29, McGurn requested a termination clause that would remain in force as long as he worked for Bell. However, he also said to Donald Bell that he would consider one that was limited to the first twenty-four months of his employment. According to McGurn, Donald Bell replied that a twenty-four...
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