Pugh v. See’s Candies, Inc.
171 Cal.Rptr. 917 (Cal.App.1981).
After 32 years of employment with See’s Candies, in which he worked his way up the corporate ladder from dishwasher to vice-president in charge of production and member of the board of directors, Pugh was fired. He was a great employee who had received awards, promotions, and commendations.
- He was given no reason for his termination other than to “look deep within himself” to find the answer.
- His theory was that he was let go because he opposed a “sweetheart” contract between See’s and a labor union where seasonal employees would get paid less.
- He then sued both See’s and the union for wrongful termination.
- Although Pugh didn’t have any express, written agreement for continued employment, pretty much every President that See’s had while Pugh was there had a practice of not terminating administrative personnel except for good cause, and one even told him that his job was secure as long he remained loyal.
The trial court granted the defendant’s motions for nonsuit.
Was there enough to find an implied-in-fact promise for continued employment?
In determining whether there exists an implied-in-fact promise, courts have used a totality-of-the-circumstances approach and considered a variety of factors:
- The personnel policies or practices of the employer;
- The employee’s longevity of service;
- Actions or communications by the employer reflecting assurances of continued employment; and
- The practices of the industry in which the employee is engaged.
Here, there were facts in evidence from which the jury could determine the existence of an implied promise:
- The duration of Pugh’s employment.
- The commendations and promotions he received.
- The apparent lack of any direct criticism of his work.
- The assurances he was given.
- The employer’s acknowledged policies.
Rule: In determining whether there exists an implied-in-fact promise, courts have used a totality-of-the-circumstances approach.