Dillon V. Jogbra

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Employers that do not follow their disciplinary policies, and related procedures, may get sued for breach of contract or wrongful discharge. Courts have ruled that disciplinary policies can be contracts, even when employers include at-will statements in them, if the policies contain provisions promising that the employer will follow specific disciplinary procedures. So, in Dillon v. Champion Jogbra, Inc., the Vermont Supreme Court found the disclaimer printed in an employee manual was in conflict with the employer's elaborate discipline and discharge system, which the employer said would be carried out in a fair and consistent manner. The Court ruled that the employer was sending mixed messages to employees about their status. Accordingly, it allowed a terminated employee to pursue her breach of implied contract claim since the employer had apparently adhered to these procedures in almost all other cases. Thus, your disciplinary policy should include "at-will" language stating that the policy is only a guideline, that management reserves the right to exercise its discretion in implementing it, and that you retain the right to discharge employees immediately. This case highlights the care that employers should take with the design of employee handbooks. Even where a handbook contains a prominent disclaimer stating that it does not establish any contract rights, an employer must be careful with all of the handbook’s wording to not create a contractual liability. 1. What were the legal issues in this case?

Linda Dillon sued her former employer, Champion Jogbra, claiming that it breached an implied contract when it terminated her employment without following the company’s progressive discipline policy as stated in the company handbook. She also argues that the trial court’s summary judgment on her claim of promissory estoppels was incorrect. Champion claimed that Dillon was an at-will employee, and thus could be terminated at any time, and that nothing in the...
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