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01/18/89 Louise Wilder, v. Butler Manufacturing

January 18, 1989

LOUISE WILDER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

BUTLER MANUFACTURING COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

533 N.E.2d 1129, 178 Ill. App. 3d 819, 128 Ill. Dec. 41 1989.IL.43

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. Harry C. Bulkeley, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY and SCOTT, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HEIPLE

The plaintiff, Louise Wilder, sued to recover damages for the alleged breach of an oral contract for permanent employment. Thereafter, the defendant, Butler Manufacturing Company, filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted. The trial court found that there was no consideration to support the alleged oral contract for permanent employment. Furthermore, the trial court found that the alleged contract could not be performed within one year and thus was barred by the Statute of Frauds (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 59, par. 1 et seq.). We affirm on other grounds.

The plaintiff was hired by the defendant as an assistant foreman at its Galesburg plant on June 21, 1976. Prior to working for the defendant, the plaintiff had been employed by the City of Galesburg as its human relations officer for approximately five years. The plaintiff testified that during meetings with four of the defendant's employees she was offered a position at the defendant's plant with "job security." The defendant's employees deny making any such assurances. After working at the defendant's plant for nearly six years, the defendant experienced a severe downturn in business and subsequently terminated several salaried management employees, including the plaintiff. On appeal the plaintiff maintains that there was a definite promise for permanent employment in her oral contract with the defendant. We disagree.

Illinois law requires that the terms of an oral agreement for permanent employment must be clear and definite before it can be enforced. (Titchener v. Avery Coonley School (1976), 39 Ill. App. 3d 871.) The plaintiff's testimony reveals that the alleged oral promises of permanent employment were not clear and definite. The plaintiff's various testimony about the terms of the alleged contract includes the following:

(1) Wilder testified that she was told "Butler would always have a woman in supervision, and as long as I produced for Butler, I would always have a job, and that the only person that could eliminate me would be myself, and that would be by not doing my job";

(2) Wilder testified that when she told Butler's David DeBaugh, then assistant personnel manager at the Galesburg Plant, that "I have job security where I am" and asked if she would have "job security" at Butler, she was told "that I would never have to anticipate a layoff";

(3) Wilder testified that she knew there could be layoffs of management personnel, and that she could be laid off, but she believed that she would be the last one laid off;

(4) Wilder also testified that she was told she would never be laid off;

(5) Wilder testified that she had "job security" because Butler's David DeBaugh told her she "was on ground floor level here. We have not hired women in management. You will be the first woman hired in management at Butler";

(6) Wilder testified that she told David DeBaugh she had job security and that David DeBaugh responded by saying "we are talking job security with Butler," "its a permanent position," and "[You're] the first ...


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