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Blodgett v. Siemens Industry, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 11, 2018



          Joan M. Azrack, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Robert Blodgett, Peter Bouley, Christopher Visocky and Randy Zornberg (together “Plaintiffs”) commenced this action against Defendant Siemens Industry Inc. (“Siemens”) on June 3, 2013, claiming breach of implied contract, promissory estoppel and misrepresentation. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) On April 21, 2017, Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 92.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment on all claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiffs' Employment with Siemens

         Plaintiffs are former employees of Defendant Siemens. (Def.'s Local Rule 56.1 Stmt. of Facts (“Def.'s 56.1”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 94.) Siemens is a Delaware corporation whose primary product is fire protection systems. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs were hired by Siemens as territory sales managers for Siemens' Faraday brand of fire protection products for Siemens' Building Technologies Division. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Plaintiffs began their employment with Siemens at different times between 2007 and 2011-plaintiff Blodgett in 2007, plaintiff Zornberg in 2008, Plaintiff Bouley in 2009, and plaintiff Visocky in 2011. (Id. ¶ 5.) As territory sales managers for the Faraday product, Plaintiffs were responsible for sales, working with distributors to manage product distribution, and educating distributors about the product, among other duties. (Id. ¶ 6.) Each plaintiff was responsible for a different territory within the United States. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 7.) During their employment with Siemens, Plaintiffs worked for a management team consisting of Tom Schlesinger (Senior Director of Product Sales), Kurt Schoonover (Director of Sales/Senior Sales Manager), and Mike Alpher (Sales Manager). (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiffs reported directly to Mike Alpher, who in turn reported to Tom Schlesinger and Kurt Schoonover. (Id. ¶ 9.) Neither Alpher, Schlesinger, nor Schoonover had authority to issue employment contracts. (Id. ¶ 10.)

         Prior to the commencement of their employment with Siemens, each plaintiff acknowledged an offer letter prepared by Siemens. (Id. ¶¶ 11-14.) The offer letters clearly defined Plaintiffs' employment relationship with Siemens. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 11-14.) For example, the offer letters signed by plaintiffs Blodgett, Bouley, and Zornberg stated that “Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., is an at-will employer. This means your employment can be terminated at any time by you or by Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., with or without cause and with or without notice.” (Id. ¶¶ 11-13.) Similarly, the offer letter accepted by plaintiff Visocky provided:

This letter sets forth the entire offer of employment. Any promises, agreements or understandings not stated herein are not binding. . . . This offer of employment does not constitute a contract of employment between SII and the employee for any fixed term. All SII employees are employed on an at-will basis, whereby the employment may be terminated with or without cause or advance notice by either the employee or the employer. Further, the terms of employment may be altered at any time at SII's sole discretion. No. one other than an officer of SII has the authority to enter into an agreement for employment for a specified period of time, and any such agreement must be in writing and must be signed by you and an officer of SII. No. other policies or practices should be construed as varying the at-will status of any employee.

(Id. ¶ 14.)

         Additionally, Siemens maintained an employee handbook stating that all Siemens employees were at-will employees, and thus could be terminated at any time. (Id. ¶ 15.) All four plaintiffs conceded at their depositions that both their offer letters and the Siemens employee handbook provided explicit notice of their at-will employment status. (Blodgett Dep. 14:11-15:7, 36:19-37:3, ECF No. 97-1, Ex. C; Bouley Dep. 11:7-2, ECF No. 97-1, Ex. D; Visocky Dep. 17:24-18:15, ECF No. 97-1, Ex. E; Zornberg Dep. 19:4-19, ECF No. 97-1, Ex. F.) Plaintiffs also confirmed that they never received any written employment contracts from Siemens memorializing any promises of continued employment. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 18.)

         B. Siemens' Reorganization of its Fire Protection Product Business

         Prior to Plaintiffs' employment with Siemens, Siemens acquired the Faraday brand of fire protection products from Cerberus Pyrotronics. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 19.) As a result, Siemens sold two lines of fire protection products-a Faraday brand and a Siemens brand. (Id. ¶ 19.) In early 2011, Siemens announced that it planned to introduce a new line of fire protection products that would replace the Faraday and Siemens brands. (Id. ¶ 20.) The entire Siemens fire protection product sales staff would eventually work on this new line of products, as opposed to working on separate products. (Id. ¶ 20.) As part of this proposed reorganization, the Faraday sales team members, including Plaintiffs, became part of the combined Siemens sales team. (Id. ¶ 21.) Siemens planned to merge the Faraday and Siemens sales territories to create 15 sales territories within the United States. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 22.)

         In late 2011, at an annual summit meeting with distributors, Siemens formally announced the retirement of the Faraday brand and introduced the new line of Siemens fire protection products, Cerberus PRO. (Id. ¶ 23.) The Faraday brand was eventually merged into the Siemens brand, resulting in Siemens selling one line of fire protection products-Cerberus PRO-to its distributors. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiffs continued working in their existing territories because the plan to create 15 new sales territories within the United States was not approved. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         C. Alleged Promises of Continued Employment

         Plaintiffs claim that certain statements made by Schlesinger, Schoonover and Alpher during the pendency of the merger constituted promises of secure employment based on their existing sales achievements and that these statements altered Plaintiffs' at-will status. (Pl.'s Mem. at 1.) Plaintiffs claim that in the fall of 2011, Tom Schlesinger and Kurt Schoonover gave a PowerPoint presentation to all of the territory managers regarding the merger and that during the presentation, Schlesinger and Schoonover communicated that they intended to maintain the same number of territory managers after the merger was completed. (Pl.'s Mem. at 10-11; Visocky Dep. 30:19-32:4.) Plaintiffs also claim that their direct supervisor, Mike Alpher, promised that if they continued to perform well that their jobs would be safe. (Pl.'s Mem. at 11.)

         In the two years that followed, three of the four plaintiffs received offers to interview for other jobs, but none of them actually interviewed for those positions nor received offers of employment.[1] (Bouley Dep. 34:13-36:7; Visocky Dep. 47:9-48:11; Blodgett Dep. 81:3-82:21; Zornberg Dep. 81:2-82:14.) There is no evidence that Schlesinger, Schoonover or Alpher were aware of Plaintiffs' offers to interview for other jobs.

         D. Plaintiffs' ...

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