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TOWNSEND v. HARRISION RADIATOR DIV.

April 11, 1991

DOUGLAS R. TOWNSEND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARRISON RADIATOR DIVISION, GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skretny, District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Before this Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R. Civ.P. 56.

Plaintiff Douglas R. Townsend ("Townsend") sues defendant Harrison Radiator Division, General Motors Corporation ("Harrison") for Harrison's breach of an implied employment contract. Although Townsend initiated this lawsuit in state court, on May 1, 1989, defendant removed this lawsuit to this Court. This Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and, therefore, New York law supplies the substantive rule of decision in this case.

In his Complaint, Townsend alleges that portions of Harrison's personnel policies and procedures handbook, "Working With GM," created an implied employment contract between Townsend and Harrison. Townsend alleges that Harrison breached this contract by discharging him. Although Harrison contends that Townsend's discharge resulted from falsification of time reports, Townsend insists that he engaged in no misconduct and emphasizes that a New York State administrative law judge, subsequently affirmed by the New York State Department of Labor, found no credible evidence of misconduct.

Harrison moves for summary judgment, arguing that Townsend was an employee at will and under New York common law subject to discharge for any reason. Furthermore, Harrison contends, no implied employment contract existed between Harrison and Townsend limiting Harrison's right to discharge Townsend at will. Finally, notwithstanding its right to discharge Townsend at will, Harrison claims that Townsend's discharge resulted after an internal investigation revealed that Townsend had falsified time reports.

In support of its motion, Harrison submits its Notice of Motion with exhibits ("H. Notice"); the affidavit of James Hamilton, a manager with Harrison's Salaried Personnel Administration ("Hamilton"); a legal memorandum ("H. Memo"); a reply memorandum ("H. Reply"); a supplemental memorandum ("Supp. Memo"); and a statement of material facts not in dispute ("H. Fact").

In opposition to Harrison's motion, Townsend submits a statement of undisputed material facts ("T. Fact"); a supplemental statement of disputed material facts ("T. Supp. Fact"); the affidavit of Douglas R. Townsend ("Townsend"); and the affidavit of Roger Niemel, Esq. ("Niemel").

Conclusion: For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Harrison's motion for summary judgment and dismisses Townsend's lawsuit.

FACTS

The following material facts are not in dispute.

In 1964, Townsend commenced employment with Harrison. From 1964 until approximately 1975, when Harrison became an inspection foreman, a collective bargaining agreement governed Townsend's employment. (T. Fact, ¶ 1).

In 1975-76, Harrison promoted Townsend to inspection foreman, a supervisory level position. As an inspection foreman, Townsend did not have an express employment contract and the collective bargaining agreement no longer provided terms and conditions of Townsend's employment. Upon his promotion, Townsend received Harrison's personnel policies and procedures handbook "Working With GM" ("the Handbook") (Townsend, ¶¶ 2-3).

On each of the days from March 17 through March 20, 1986, Harrison security guards observed Townsend leaving the plant before the time Townsend indicated on his time reports for those days. These security guards did not see Townsend return. However, several other plant personnel, including one other security guard, saw Townsend in the plant after Townsend allegedly left for the day. (Complaint, Exhs. A & B; T. Fact, ¶ 6).

Effective March 25, 1986, Harrison discharged Townsend for falsification of time reports for the week ending March 23, 1986. Harrison officials personally escorted Townsend from the plant in full view of other plant employees, including some whom Townsend supervised. (Townsend, ¶ 16).

Shortly after his discharge, Townsend filed for unemployment benefits with the New York State Department of Labor. On April 23, 1986, a New York State Department of Labor Claims Examiner denied Townsend unemployment benefits on the grounds that falsification of time reports constituted misconduct and disqualified Townsend from receiving such benefits. (Complaint, Exh. A).

On April 30, 1986, Townsend's attorney contacted Harrison by letter seeking reinstatement for Townsend. On May 27, 1986, Harrison, by letter, informed Townsend's attorney that Harrison would ". . . initiate the procedure for using the Open Door Policy," and that Townsend could ". . . ...


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