has successfully fulfilled its summary judgment burden on plaintiff's unlawful discharge claim, in that it has shown that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to whether plaintiff was discharged for discriminatory reasons. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the courts holds that it is insufficient as a matter of law to support a verdict in plaintiff's favor on the issue of discriminatory discharge. Therefore, the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's unlawful discharge claim.
C. Breach of Implied Contract Claim
In his third cause of action, plaintiff alleges that defendant breached an implied contract by dismissing him in bad faith. It is well established in New York that absent an agreement establishing a fixed duration, employment by a private employer is presumed to be at will, and terminable at any time by either party. Sabetay v. Sterling Drug, Inc., 69 N.Y.2d 329, 333, 506 N.E.2d 919, 920, 514 N.Y.S.2d 209, 211 (1987); Doynow v. Nynex Publishing Co., 202 A.D.2d 388, , 608 N.Y.S.2d 683, 684 (2d Dep't 1994). Where an employee is retained at-will, no obligation of good faith or fair dealing attaches to the employment relationship, as such an obligation "would be incongruous to the legally recognized jural relationship in [an at-will] relationship." Ingle v. Glamore, 73 N.Y.2d 183, 188, 535 N.E.2d 1311, 1313, 538 N.Y.S.2d 771, 773 (1989).
Because the record is devoid of evidence indicating an agreement to employ plaintiff for a fixed duration, a presumption arises that plaintiff was employed at-will. To rebut this presumption, plaintiff maintains that he was given oral and written assurances of continued employment. According to plaintiff, when defendant acquired the papermill, Frederick A. Szmit, the company President, assured employees including plaintiff that they would have continued employment and that the papermill would continue as it has in the past. Jackson Affidavit, Doc. 19, at P 30. Plaintiff interpreted this to mean that the policies of Georgia Pacific would also be adopted by defendant. Specifically, plaintiff relied on the Georgia Pacific Operating Policies which set forth the terms and conditions of employment. See Policy Manual, Doc. 15, Part 2.
Plaintiff's arguments are insufficient to create a material issue of fact as to his at-will employment status. Taking plaintiff's account of Szmit's statement as true, no fixed duration of employment was specified. Thus Szmit's alleged promise can not be said to have converted plaintiff from at-will to a term-of-years employee. Further, defendant steadfastly denies that it maintains any formal employment policy, and categorically avers that it never adopted the written operating processes of Georgia Pacific. Szmit Affidavit, Doc. 8, at P 3; Colella Affidavit, Doc. 9, at P 3. The court agrees that plaintiff's interpretation of Szmit's alleged statement is strained at best, and that defendant can not be held to the standards contained in Georgia Pacific's Policy Manual.
Nonetheless, even if defendant had adopted the policies of Georgia Pacific, plaintiff's reliance on the Georgia Pacific's Operating Policies Manual is misguided. Under the section entitled "Termination of Employment -- Salaried Employees," the manual states that "the employment and compensation of any employee can be terminated, with or without cause, at any time, at the option of the employee or at the option of the company." Policy Manual, Doc. 15, Part 2, at 20. Clearly this describes an at-will employment relationship.
Because there was no agreement establishing a fixed duration of employment, plaintiff was an at-will employee and defendant had the right to discharge him at will. Therefore, defendant's motion for summary judgment with regard to plaintiff's contract claim is granted.
D. Sanctions under Rule 11
Finally, defendant moves for an award of sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, arguing that plaintiff's retaliation and contract claims are frivolous. Rule 11 is violated only when it is "patently clear that a claim has absolutely no chance of success." Oliveri v. Thompson, 803 F.2d 1265, 1275 (2d Cir. 1986). The court holds that plaintiff's submissions were not frivolous under the Oliveri standard. Therefore the court denies defendant's motion for sanctions under Rule 11.
In sum, defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) is granted. Defendant's motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 is denied. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of defendant Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper, Inc., dismissing this action in its entirety.
It is So Ordered.
Dated: September 7, 1994
Syracuse, New York
HOWARD G. MUNSON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE