I. Memo Introduction
We represent Greenes Jewelry Wholesale and its interests. Greenes has filed a lawsuit against Jennifer Lawson for contractual breach. In her response to our lawsuit against her, she has countersued Greenes for wrongful termination.
To present the facts, Greenes Jewelry Wholesale is a company that manufactures and distributes high-end costume jewelry and conducts its business in Derry, New Hampshire. Prior to her termination, Jennifer had been working at Greenes in the position of junior executive secretary. She had signed a confidentiality contract prohibiting her from disclosing Greenes success secrets to its competitors. Greenes decision to sue Jennifer follows her failure to do so and acting contrary to the contract that she signed thereby Greenes manufacturing secrets to Howell Jewelry World. Her decision to countersue Greenes is motivated by a feeling of wrongful termination following her pregnancy and is seeking payment for damages.
The magnitude of Greenes contract claim is strong since the companys manufacturing secrets are now in the hands of one of its fiercest and direct competitors. On the other hand, Jennifers claim of wrongful termination is baseless as the company acted in its own right to downsize and do away with the position of all junior executive secretaries one of which she occupied while working at Greenes.
II. Clients Case
A. Facts and Laws
1. Facts on termination issues: New Hampshire operates under employment-at-will rule for all employees except those working in the public sectors. Employment-at-will is a state law which asserts that an employer can terminate a relationship with the employee at any time, with or without notice, for good or bad reasons. An employee is protected from termination by the employer if there is a Federal or state law, judicial decision, collective bargaining agreement or individual contract limitations (Issa, 2015). According to the available laws, employees are allowed without fear of termination, to take part in any lawfully granted activities such as judicial or legal leave, attending to a jury duty, garnishment issues, as well as health and family matters. The benefits of employment-at-will to the employer include the fact that there never has to be an explanation to terminate the relationship with an employee. The same applies to the employees; they do not need to explain why they are terminating their associations with the companies in which they work ("New Hampshire Termination (with Discharge) laws & HR compliance analysis," n.d.). On the negative side, anyone can be jobless anytime with or without explanation. Public workers protection from termination is great when the negative aspects of employees such as lateness and abuse of office are absent. Again, such agreements are preferable to some degree than employment-at-will. From Greenes perspective, these facts and laws, in addition to other considerations, will provide the foundations of analysis of the companys claim and its defense against Jennifers claim of wrongful termination. That is so because other considerations on the type of company Greenes will provide a better approach to this case.
2. Facts of the contract issues: Various types of contracts bind employees and their employers concerning the services or jobs they both do. The collective bargaining agreements protect public office holders with certain protections. The at-will employment principle is uncommon to executive employees in the public sector. That means that there is an individual employment contract bearing the circumstance under which the contract can be broken. While the New Hampshire contracts do not necessarily need to be in written form, but their terms and conditions are found in written policies, letters, rules, employee handbooks and benefit plans. The law permits legal pursuit in matters concerning contract breach by employees including issues of confidentiality disclosure.
3. The employment/contract laws: There are specific laws in New Hampshire that can apply to Greenes case. Such include the Non-compete or non-piracy law, and The New Hampshire Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (NH WARN Act) (Shilling, 2012). The non-compete law requires the employer to notify a prospective employee of the confidential or secret information to abide with before agreeing to take the job. NH WARN Act covers issues with private employees layoff. The non-compete law applies in that it upholds Greenes right to confidentiality and anti-piracy intentions. The relevance of NH WARN Act lies in one of its exceptions which permit private employees termination under financial strain and need to resize ("Amendment to New Hampshire Non-Compete / Non-Piracy Law," n.d.).
1. Cases that support Greenes position on the termination issues include Sandhu v. Solutions2go Inc., and Barton v. Rona (Thomlinson, 2014). In the first case, Sandhu was an employee of Solutions2go Inc. who was terminated without reason and paid in full without bonuses. After she sued her employer, she was awarded the bonuses because the company failed to provide a written bonus policy. In the second case, Barton was a senior employee of Rona store who was wrongfully dismissed with allegations of breaking the companys policies of health and safety program. Rona claimed that he was aware but did not assist a disabled colleague to a ramp. Following his lawsuit against his employer, the Ontario court shared his claims of the companys zero tolerance policy, and he was awarded ten months pay. The first case supports Greenes case by asserting that compensations for damages are possible only when policies are not evident in writing, contrary to what Greenes does. Also, Barton was found not to have breached the health policy by merely knowing. Greenes was aware of Jennifers pregnancy, and that has nothing to do with the companys rights terminate her contract.
2. Regarding the breach of nondisclosure contract, RKI, Inc. v. Grimes, (177 F. Supp. 2d 859 - Dist. Court, ND Illinois 2001) would serve as an example. Grimes signed and breached a nondisclosure contract, and was fined by the court. Hallmark Cards, Inc. v. Janet Murley is another case of non-disclosure contract that was breached, and Hallmark prevailed against its former employee.
C. Facts to be Determined
1. To understand specific particulars of this case, there are questions that need to be answered and analyzed to prepare a comprehensive defense of Greenes Jewelry Wholesale. 1. Did the company notify Jennifer of the confidentiality details of her contract before her agreement? 2. Does Greenes have written documents with regards its policies? 3. Did the company want to resize? 4. Were all the junior executive secretaries dismissed? 5. Was defendant pregnant by the time of her termination?
2. The responses to these questions are significant for this case bearing in mind Jennifer signed an individual employment contract. In response to the first question, Greenes notified Jennifer about the confidentiality elements of her contract as required by the non-compete law of New Hampshire. There exist written terms and conditions concerning the nondisclosure contract. The financial constraints forced the decision to resize, and the termination of all junior executive secretaries was one of the procedures. The company was well aware of Jennifers pregnancy situation and granted her late report to work before her planned medical leave.
D. Application of Law to the Facts
As per given facts, the employment-at-will agreement provides for an impromptu termination with or without notice from either party. The Individual Employment contract and collective bargaining have terms of compliance and protection from wrongful termination. Concerning this case, Jennifer violated Greenes terms of an agreement and was rightfully terminated despite the fact that she was not under employment-at-will agreement. Therefore, the application of non-compete or Non-disclosure law can rightly be applied since Jennifer disclosed Greenes secrets to Howell Jewelry World. RKI, Inc. v. Grimes case supports this decision. In Greenes defense against Jennifers claim of wrongful termination, an exception in NH WARN Act permits such termination without notice when an entity has financial issues and seeking resizing measures. Sandhu v. Solutions2go Inc. and Barton v. Rona cases present grounds of in which breach of contracts and seeking damages can be approached. The answers to the relevant questions asked in the previous section show the strength of Greenes claims. The weakness of this case comes from the pregnancy state in which Jennifer was, but it was handled in the right manner even before her termination.
E. Impact Assessment
1. The public perception of Greenes after this should not raise eyebrows much because the company exercised absolute fidelity to its policies and terms of agreement when dealing with Jennifers case. Despite the fact that she was pregnant, the company had no ill intent and did not show any towards Jennifer.
2. Should there be cases of public scrutiny and divergent opinions concerning Greenes response to this case, the company would disclose its laws to the public domains for anyone who would want to ascertain its conduct. If any third party or entity seeks to interfere with the conduct of Greenes, legal action would be taken against such parties.
3. To prevent such lawsuits from happening to Greenes in future, it is recommendable that the company should adjust its policies, practices, and procedures to be more accommodative and considerate when dealing with issues of the health of employees as far as termination is concerned. Additionally, the policies should include prior notice before termination. Therefore, exorbitant legal fees will be charged depending on the weight of each issue to be addressed for these changes to be fully implemented.
Amendment to New Hampshire Non-Compete / Non-Piracy Law. Hagehodes.com. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://hagehodes.com/amendment-to-new-hampshire-non-compete-non-piracy-law/
Issa, M. (2015). Damages and Compensation in Case of Breach of Contract. International Journal Of Social Science Research, 3(1), 190. http://dx.doi.org/10.5296/ijssr.v3i1.6852
New Hampshire Termination (with Discharge) laws & HR compliance analysis. Blr.com. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from http://www.blr.com/HR-Employment/Performance-Termination/Termination-with-Discharge-in-New-Hampshire#
RKI, Inc. v. Grimes, 177 F. Supp. 2d 859 (N.D. Ill. 2001)
Shilling, C. (2012). Business Law & Business Litigation: New Hampshires New Non-Compete Law. Nhbar.org. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://www.nhbar.org/publications/display-news-issue.asp?id=6649
Thomlinson, R. (2014). Top 10 employment law cases of 2013 | Lexology. Lexology.com. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3ed29500-8d11-46ed-924f-743fea8478a4
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