hartfordYears ago, I recall having a friendly conversation with another attorney in Connecticut where the topic turned to the notion of “At Will” employment.

When we couldn’t settle on an answer, we moved on to talking about whether the Hartford Whalers would ever come back.

I think we had a better answer for that question:

Photo Courtesy Library of Congress

On Twitter and Facebook, the concept of “Throwback Thursday” (or #tbt) has become quite popular.  Typically, it’s a picture from long ago that you’ve forgotten.The theory behind why its so popular is that there is still gold to be mined out of older things.

I was thinking about that concept lately when it comes to blogs and employment law. Overall, lawyers tend to write about the latest and greatest development as if it requires a wholesale reinvention of human resources. I’ve tried to provide some context over the years but I’ve also been trying to find a forum to provide additional perspective on certain issues.

So, with that in mind, from time to time, I’ll take a look back at some cases and issues that still have relevance today and give them that modern day “blog” makeover.

The case that immediately comes to mind is Torosyan v.  Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was decided just a few months before I started my career in employment law. It was the case I can remember being discussed in my employment law meetings when I first started work.

Background

According to the court’s decision, back in 1982, the plaintiff came to Connecticut at the defendant’s invitation and expense, for job interviews with five of the defendant’s employees. According to the court:

At several of the interviews, the plaintiff informed the defendant’s employees that he was seeking “long-term” employment, and that he did not want to move his family from California unless the defendant could guarantee him job security. In response, one interviewer told the plaintiff that if the plaintiff did a good job, the defendant would “take care” of him. Another interviewer told the plaintiff that he hoped that the plaintiff would stay forever and that the plaintiff would have the opportunity to examine the company’s employee manual to determine whether it provided the guarantees that he sought. ….

On August 31, 1982, the defendant wrote to the plaintiff, stating that “[t]his letter confirms our offer to you for employment as Biochemist III at an initial salary of $30,000 per year.” Although the letter from the defendant further represented that the defendant would provide the plaintiff with various fringe benefits, it did not state that the plaintiff’s employment would be terminable only for cause. The letter also did not state, however, that it contained all the terms of the plaintiff’s employment contract or that it superseded any prior or subsequent oral representations that might be made to the plaintiff. The plaintiff countersigned the letter without adding anything thereto and returned it to the defendant.

On his first day of work, Torosyan received the employee manual. The manual provided that the company could discharge employees for “cause.” Approximately two years later, the company distributed a new employee manual which no longer limited discharges to cause. The new manual included a disclaimer stating that the manual was for instructional purposes only, and also added a section stating that falsification of any company record could result in termination. One year later, Torosyan was fired for submitting a false expense report, and sued claiming breach of contract and defamation.


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The law is mightier than the pen?

Rather than tell you the result of a new Connecticut Supreme Court case first, let’s play along with the facts at home first.Here they are:

The plaintiff was hired as a laboratory manager by the defendant in February, 2006. On February 2, 2006, the