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TAYLOR v. CANTEEN CORP.

March 5, 1992

JERRY TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CANTEEN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDADE, District Judge.

ORDER

Before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint (# 52). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

JURISDICTION

In Count II of the Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff asserts that the defendant breached an oral employment contract between the parties by terminating Plaintiff's employment. The breach of contract claim in Count II is pendent to the Court's jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Count I claim alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The following facts are undisputed. Defendant (Canteen) is a Delaware company which does a vending business in Illinois. Canteen's employee, Mr. Bross, was the Peoria district manager in 1978, and responsible for hiring employees at Canteen's Peoria, Illinois, facility.

In 1978, Plaintiff (Taylor) worked for Canteen as a maintenance person and the conditions of his employment were governed by the collective bargaining agreement then in effect. Following the retirement of Canteen's Peoria branch maintenance supervisor, Bross offered this nonunion management job to Taylor. (Bross dep. p. 39.) Canteen was aware that Taylor was the most senior maintenance person working for Canteen with job security as provided by the collective bargaining agreement. Taylor accepted Canteen's offer of the management job and resigned his union-secured job with Canteen in August 1978. (Bross dep. p. 70). On November 1, 1984, Canteen terminated Taylor's employment by retiring him. (Pl. dep. pp. 66-67, 119-120.)

The following disputed facts comprise the gravamen of the Motion for Summary Judgment. Taylor claims that at the time of the unsolicited offer from Canteen, he was told that, if he accepted the management job in exchange for his loss of seniority and job security guaranteed by the collective bargaining agreement, he would have "nothing to worry about." (Pl. dep. p. 31.) Taylor also claims that, in a second conversation with Bross, he was told he would "not have to be concerned with job security" as he could work for Defendant as maintenance supervisor for "as long as he wished or until he retired." (Pl. dep. pp. 106-110.) In reliance upon this promise, Taylor accepted the offer and resigned from the union, thereby losing the job security protection afforded him under the collective bargaining agreement. Canteen denies that any such promises were made to Taylor. (Bross dep. pp. 66-67, 119-120.)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

Plaintiff contends that the conversation which he had with Canteen's district manager constituted a valid and enforceable oral contract for permanent employment; and that Canteen breached this agreement when it forced him to retire in 1984. Taylor further asserts that he has alleged a cause of action based on the theory of promissory estoppel. He argues that under both claims there exists a genuine issue of material fact which precludes summary judgment.

Defendant denies that an enforceable contract was created for the reason that the supervisor's statements do not constitute a clear and definite promise nor are they supported by the requisite consideration required by Illinois law for contract formation. Defendant also argues that the alleged oral contract is unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds which requires all contracts that cannot be fully performed within one year to be in writing.

In response to this latter contention, Plaintiff asserts that he has partially performed his part of the bargain and that the doctrine of promissory estoppel precludes the application of the Statute of Frauds to bar the claim.

DISCUSSION

  Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with any affidavits demonstrate that there is no genuine issue
of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.C.P. 56(c). A party who
bears the burden of proof on an issue may not rest on its
pleading but must show 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). It is for the Court to determine
whether there are any factual ...

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