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General Promises By Employer Do Not Change At-Will Nature of Employment
Description Employee was told he would be fired only for good cause and that employment was year-to-year. He was fired, not for good cause he asserts, in the middle of a year. Appeals court upheld dismissal of suit against employer, holding that more specific terms are required to change employment from at-will to a formal contract.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Employment-at-Will, Contract
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Gilmartin alleged that when he was hired he was told his work would be year to year, subject to annual renewal based on good performance, and that he would be fired only for good cause. Employer denied that claim, saying Gilmartin was told he would work so long as his work was satisfactory. After one year and five months, Gilmartin was fired because of falling station profits. Gilmartin sued, contending that he was not fired for good cause as supposedly promised, so there was a breach of contract. Trial court granted employer's motion for summary judgment. Gilmartin appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "The general rule in Texas, as in most states, is that 'absent a specific agreement to the contrary, employment may be terminated by the employer or the employee at-will, for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.' Such at-will employment, however, may become contractual based on oral statements of those in authority.... General promises or assurances that an employee will ... only be terminated for 'good cause' do not constitute a binding contract. An employee must reveal a more formal agreement with the employer to modify at-will employment." Even if Gilmartin's assertions are true, the outcome is not changed.
Citation Gilmartin v. KVTV-Channel 13, 1998 WL 892632 (Slip Copy, Ct. App., Tx.)
985 S.W.2d 553 (Ct. App., Tx., 1998)

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