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WOJCIK v. COMMONWEALTH MORTG. CORP.

March 16, 1990

MARK WOJCIK, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH MORTGAGE CORPORATION, Defendant, and FEDERAL SAVINGS AND LOAN INSURANCE CORPORATION, Intervenor



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LINDBERG

 GEORGE W. LINDBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Intervenor, Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. (FSLIC), and defendant, Commonwealth Mortgage Corp. of America (Commonwealth), (hereinafter collectively "defendants") pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure move for entry of summary judgment in their favor. The complaint is in two counts: in Count I plaintiff contends that the plaintiff and Commonwealth had an employment contract pursuant to Commonwealth's employment handbook (handbook) and corporate policies and procedure manual (manual) which Commonwealth breached by terminating plaintiff's employment without taking the performance, improvement, and disciplinary procedures or giving the notice required by such handbook and manual; and, in Count II plaintiff contends that he relied upon the unambiguous promises of the handbook and manual to his detriment because his employment was terminated by Commonwealth without taking the performance and disciplinary procedures or giving the notice promised therein. Plaintiff objects to the granting of the motion for summary judgment on the ground that an issue of fact exists as to whether or not the handbook and manual afforded plaintiff contain very specific and mandatory procedures which were antecedent to his termination for poor production and poor attitude, the reasons given for plaintiff's termination.

 It is the contention of defendants that the handbook and manual fairly disclaim any purpose to bind the parties and do not contain any specific relevant procedure or policy for notice of termination. They maintain that as a matter of law the handbook and manual do not support a claim of a breach of contract or a claim of promissory estoppel for failure to give such notice.

 The court has carefully examined the handbook and the manual to determine whether or not they establish any rights in plaintiff antecedent to his termination for poor performance and poor attitude. The interpretation of documents purporting to be or alleged to be contracts is a question of law to be determined by the court. Premier Electrical Construction Co. v. LaSalle National Bank, 132 Ill.App.3d 485, 87 Ill. Dec. 721, 477 N.E.2d 1249 (1984). But see Scaramuzzo v. Glenmore Distilleries, Co., 501 F. Supp. 727, 732 (N.D.Ill. 1980).

 The court notes that the handbook provides:

 
The language in this handbook is not intended to create a contract between the Company and any of its employees.

 It is clear from that language that no employee could reasonably believe that any provision of the handbook could be relied upon as a promise by either the employer or employee. Such unambiguous disclaimers have been held to prevent the formation of a contract. Moore v. Illinois Bell Telephone Company, 155 Ill.App.3d 781, 108 Ill. Dec. 358, 508 N.E.2d 519 (1987); DeFosse v. Cherry Electrical Products Corp., 156 Ill.App.3d 1030, 109 Ill. Dec. 520, 510 N.E.2d 141 (1987). No provisions of the handbook supersede the provisions of the policy manual.

 The policy manual provides:

 
In no event will the hiring of an employee be considered as creating a contractual relationship between the employee and the company. Their relationship is defined as 'employment at will' where either party, with appropriate notice, may dissolve the relationship.

 It is the opinion of the court that the first sentence of the last quoted paragraph, though not surplusage, is irrelevant to the allegations of the complaint because it is not the act of hiring upon which plaintiff bases his cause of action. Rather, it is that the policy manual statements provide clear enough promises that plaintiff could reasonably believe an offer had been made by his commencing or confirming to work after learning of the statements. See Duldulao v. St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center, 115 Ill.2d 482, 106 Ill. Dec. 8, 505 N.E.2d 314, 318 (1987).

 So what remains for the court's determination is the legal significance of the second sentence of that paragraph. It provides:

 
Their relationship is defined as 'employment at will' where either party, with appropriate notice, may ...

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