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Assurances of Job Stability Meaningless in At-Will Employment Dispute
Description Employee was lured from existing job in Massachusetts to one in North Carolina that he was told was a secure position given good performance. Soon after moving, he was fired without cause. North Carolina high court rejected jury verdict for plaintiff, holding at-will employment has few exceptions.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words At-Will, Employment Contract
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Kurtzman moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina to accept an executive position with Applied. During negotiations, job security was discussed. Kurtzman was told the position was "long term" and "secure." Seven months after moving, he was fired. He sued, claiming that the assurances he was given, combined with the consideration he incurred of selling his home, moving his family, and leaving an existing position, created an employment contract that could not be terminated without cause.
Lower Court Decision The jury awarded Kurtzman $350,000 damages, which the trial judge and the court of appeals upheld. Applied appealed.
Supreme Court Decision Reversed. "This Court has repeatedly held that in the absence of a contractual agreement between an employer and an employee establishing a definite term of employment, the relationship is presumed to be terminable at the will of either party without regard to the quality of performance of either party. . .'If you do your job, you'll have a job,' is not sufficient to make this indefinite hiring terminable only for cause." The notion expressed by the Court of Appeals that there may be an exception based on consideration for moving residence is incorrect. The only exceptions to the at-will rule are those created by the legislature, when public policy is violated, or when an employment contract exists.
Citation Kurtzman v. Applied Analytical Industries, Inc., ---S.E.2d--- (1997 WL 699199, Sup. Ct., N.C.)
493 S.E.2d 420 (Sup.Ct., N.C., 1997)

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