The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEISURE
Defendant Sanwa Business Credit Corporation ("SBCC") is in the business of providing business-related financial services. Plaintiff Martin E. Enowitz ("Enowitz") was employed by SBCC from March 30, 1990 to December 31, 1991 as Vice President and Origination Team Leader of SBCC's Merchant Banking Group based in New York. Plaintiff has sued for wrongful discharge and fraudulent misrepresentation regarding his employment agreement. SBCC has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that there are no genuine issues of material facts to be tried. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.
Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests with the moving party, and the Court is required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See LaFond v. General Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 171 (2d Cir. Mar. 17, 1995). However, "to defeat a motion for summary judgment a plaintiff cannot rely on conjecture or surmise and must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." FMC Corp. v. Boesky (In re Boesky Sec. Litig.), 36 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 1994); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986) ("If the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." (citations omitted)). Because the substantive law determines which facts are material in a given case, see Herbert Constr. Co. v. Continental Ins. Co., 931 F.2d 989, 993 (2d Cir. 1991), the Court considers Enowitz's two causes of action separately.
"It is still settled law in New York that, absent an agreement establishing a fixed duration, an employment relationship is presumed to be a hiring at will, 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); see Hanchard v. Facilities Dev. Corp., 85 N.Y.2d 638, 641, 651 N.E.2d 872, 628 N.Y.S.2d 4, 6 (May 4, 1995). The at-will relationship of employment contains two elements: (1) that the employment is for an indefinite term, and terminable by any party at any time; and (2) that the employment relationship is terminable for any reason or for no reason at all.
A. Duration of Employment
Enowitz argues that he was assured of "long-term" employment, in contrast to the "'at-will' or short term theory now conveniently argued by the defendant." Affidavit of Martin E. Enowitz in Opposition ("Enowitz Aff.") P 5; see id. P 9, 22; Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition ("Enowitz Mem.") at 7. At the outset, the Court notes that at-will employment is not properly the equivalent of short-term employment, nor is it the opposite of long-term employment. The at-will relationship is properly contrasted with employment for a definite term. The hallmark of at-will employment is not that it is short term, but that it is for an indefinite term. Cf. Jones v. Dunkirk Radiator Corp., 21 F.3d 18, 22 (2d Cir. 1994) (term ascertainable because measured by either of two events).
Enowitz points to various facts which he claims, taken together, "resulted in an undertaking to employ the plaintiff for an extended duration, at the very least five to seven years." Enowitz Mem. at 2. Perhaps due to the above noted identification of at-will with short-term, Enowitz has failed even to allege a modification of the durational element of the employment-at-will rule, since he provides no evidence from which a definite term of employment could be ascertained. The Court finds that Enowitz's bare assertions that the nature of his work implied a duration of five to seven years, see, e.g., Enowitz Mem. at 2, to be too vague to satisfy the requirement of an ascertainable, definite duration of employment.
B. Unfettered Right of Termination
The Court next turns to the second element of the employment-at-will rule, the right to terminate for any reason or no reason, in order to determine if, taking the facts as alleged by Enowitz as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Enowitz, a jury could reasonably find that the presumption of at-will employment has been rebutted.
In order to rebut the presumption of employment at will, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the right to terminate for any reason or no reason was expressly limited for consideration. See Weiner v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 57 N.Y.2d 458, 463-64, 443 N.E.2d 441, 444, 457 N.Y.S.2d 193, 196 (1982). Although rebuttable, New York courts have outlined an "explicit and difficult pleading burden," Sabetay, 69 N.Y.2d at 334-35, 506 N.E.2d at 922, 514 N.Y.S.2d at 212, for the plaintiff attempting to demonstrate that the presumed at-will relationship was circumscribed so that an employer can only terminate an employee for cause or according to specific procedures. See Pisana v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10296, 1995 WL 438715, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. July 24, 1995).
The facts relied on by Enowitz in support of his contention that he was not an at-will employee are: alleged oral assurances received during interviews and a specific oral assurance from Marybeth Hoffman ("Hoffman"), Vice President of the Merchant Banking Group, during negotiations related to his offer of employment; a letter confirming the offer of employment from Hoffman; two documents received after his acceptance of employment regarding employee benefits; and annual reports and brochures of Sanwa Bank and SBCC. The Court finds that no ...