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12/01/95 MICHELLE ANNE WHEELER v. PHOENIX COMPANY

December 1, 1995

MICHELLE ANNE WHEELER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE PHOENIX COMPANY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 92-L-658. Honorable Michael Galasso, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication January 4, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Hutchinson delivered the opinion of the court: Geiger and Doyle, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hutchinson

JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the opinion of the court:

In this action for breach of employment contract, defendant, The Phoenix Company of Chicago, appeals the trial court's judgment for plaintiff, Michelle Anne Wheeler, following a bench trial. The issues on appeal are whether (1) defendant's employee handbook created an employment contract that required defendant to follow a progressive disciplinary process in order to discharge plaintiff; and (2) defendant complied with the employee handbook when it discharged plaintiff. We affirm.

On June 13, 1990, defendant hired plaintiff as an inside salesperson. Plaintiff signed an employment agreement, was given a copy ofdefendant's employee handbook, and was required to sign an acknowledgment which stated "I have read the Employee Handbook completely and understand it. I agree to conform to the rules and regulations set forth in the handbook and understand that I can be discharged at any time, with or without notice for violation of any of the rules in the handbook."

Page three of the handbook states in relevant part that "the first 90 days of employment is a trial period. *** Completion of this period does not guarantee continued employment for any specified period of time, nor does it require that an employee be discharged for 'cause.'"

Page 13 of the handbook states in relevant part that "in the event of any infraction of Company rules, the following procedure will be used. The Company will use a progressive disciplinary procedure."

Page 15 of the handbook states in relevant part:

"Depending on the severity or continued infraction of any of the above rules, any violation may be grounds for disciplinary action which could be cause for immediate dismissal.

Immediate Dismissal... To protect an employee against unfair dismissal, an employee normally will not be discharged without first receiving a written warning. However, certain infractions can subject you to immediate dismissal. In those situations, written permission from the President to immediately dismiss an employee will be obtained and given to the Supervisor. Those situations include:

1. Any employee clocking another employee 'in' or clocking an employee 'out'.

2. Any employee intentionally falsifying Company records, including time records ...


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