Mr. Nelson told Mr. Elter that Mr. LaScola had been fired for disclosure of what was considered confidential information.
Mr. LaScola denies that he disclosed confidential information at the Chequers restaurant. He contends that he was fired because US Sprint did not want to pay him future commissions on the Sears account.
In November of 1986 Mr. LaScola began employment with MCI Communications, Inc., one of US Sprint's competitors. Three months later he filed his original complaint in this case.
Mr. LaScola's present, first amended complaint has five counts. In Count I Mr. LaScola alleges that US Sprint breached a covenant of good faith and fair dealing by firing him. Count II avers that US Sprint defamed Mr. LaScola by divulging that he had disclosed confidential information. Mr. LaScola brings Count III against defendants Smith, Dorman, and Nelson for intentional interference with Mr. LaScola's contractual relationship with US Sprint. Mr. LaScola asserts Count IV against US Sprint for certain alleged fraudulent misrepresentations made to him before and during his employment at US Sprint. And Count V is for breach of Mr. LaScola's employment contract with US Sprint.
Summary judgment is proper "if 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). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment the evidence of the non-movant must be believed, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).
However, when confronted with a motion for summary judgment, a party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleading, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). The party must do more than simply "show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986) (footnote omitted). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id., 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S. Ct. at 1356.
Applying these standards defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted. The court shall address in turn Mr. LaScola's claims for breach of contract, defamation, fraud, and tortious interference with contract.
A. Breach of Employment Contract
Count V of Mr. LaScola's first amended complaint alleges that defendants breached Mr. LaScola's employment agreement with US Sprint by firing him without cause. Count I avers that US Sprint breached a covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Neither claim is legally or factually sufficient.
1. Employee-At-Will Status
Summary judgment must be entered against Mr. LaScola on Count V, his breach of contract claim, because Mr. LaScola was an employee-at-will and thus could be terminated at will -- without cause.
Under Illinois law a contract with no definite term is terminable at will.
There are three exceptions to this general rule: (1) when an employee's firing contravenes public policy; (2) when an employee is terminated in violation of particular conditions stated by the parties; and (3) under certain circumstances when there has been a clear and definite oral agreement for permanent employment. Gordon v. Matthew Bender & Co., Inc., 562 F. Supp. 1286, 1294-95 (N.D. Ill. 1983). An employer may discharge an employee-at-will for any reason or for no reasons, except when the discharge violates a clearly mandated public policy. Barr v. Kelso-Burnett Co., 106 Ill. 2d 520, 478 N.E.2d 1354, 1356, 88 Ill. Dec. 628 (1985).
Mr. LaScola does not contend that his employment contract was for a definite term, but rather admits in his complaint that he was employed "for an indefinite period." (First Amended Complaint para. 57.) This admission creates a presumption that Mr. LaScola was hired as an employee-at-will -- a presumption which can be overcome only by demonstrating that he and US Sprint contracted otherwise. Duldulao v. Saint Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center, 115 Ill. 2d 482, 505 N.E.2d 314, 318, 106 Ill. Dec. 8 (1987).
In arguing that Mr. LaScola has not overcome this presumption the defendants make much of the provisions of US Sprint's Employee Handbook. However, the court finds US Sprint's Handbook irrelevant to the issue of Mr. LaScola's employment status.
The last page of the Handbook contains the following message: