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DOWNEY v. FIRESTONE TIRE & RUBBER CO.

February 20, 1986

HARRY L. DOWNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE FIRESTONE TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: OBERDORFER

 LOUIS F. OBERDORFER, Judge.

 In November, 1980, Firestone's corporate personnel manager informed plaintiff of the impending closing of the Washington office and gave him the option of early retirement or severance pay of about $25,400. Plaintiff was 57 years old at the time. He rejected both options, and, instead, sought reassignment to another job and an opportunity to participate in an outplacement seminar. Originally intending to close the office on December 31, 1980, Firestone continued plaintiff on the payroll until January 31, 1981, while it considered his request to be retained and also arranged for his attendance at an outplacement seminar. A few days after plaintiff's last day of work, Firestone flew him to Akron where company officials met with him at the airport and discussed their efforts to relocate him and also the early retirement/severance pay option. Meanwhile, two employees of the Washington office, both junior to plaintiff, transferred to Akron. Plaintiff was never transferred or reemployed.

 Plaintiff originally sued in 1983 claiming age discrimination, breach of contract, and also damages arising from claims sounding in tort. The Court of Appeals has affirmed dismissal of the age discrimination claim and the matter is now before the Court on defendant's renewed motion to dismiss, and in the alternative, for summary judgment, on the contract and tort claims.

 There was no written employment contract entered between plaintiff and Firestone, and plaintiff points to no conversation in which he was offered employment for any term of years or for any definite term. Rather, he relies upon the fact that he was employed for a long time and upon language gleaned from a revised Handbook for Firestone Salaried Employees ("Handbook") which was handed to him sometime after November, 1975. He also points to language in a Firestone Salaried Personnel Manual ("Manual"). The Manual is issued by Firestone for the use of its personnel managers and is not distributed to salaried employees generally. It is the essence of plaintiff's claim that the Handbook, as informed by the Manual, states as one of the terms and conditions of his employment that Firestone was obligated to consider his credited service in making transfers during the reduction-in-force and that its failure to do so was an actionable breach of that employment contract.

 In November of 1980, before the reduction-in-force which cost plaintiff his job, Firestone modified the Manual to add this guidance for its personnel managers:

 
Persons being reduced from their present position [sic] should be transferred within the department to a position classification which they have previously performed satisfactorily if that job is held by an employee with less company service. The employee will fill the vacancy created by removing the employee with the least amount of company service in the affected classification.

 Id. at 2.11.3.A.3 (revised November 1, 1980) (emphasis added). Plaintiff emphasizes the Handbook and Manual provisions which contemplate a "bumping" process, whereby the person with less credited service must be terminated, and that person's position filled by the more senior person in that department. The portions of the Handbook relied upon by plaintiff are, in haec verba, as follows:

 
As an integral part of its corporate purpose, the company will deal fairly with all groups with which it works, including employees, stockholders, customers, the government and the general public.

 Id. at 8.

 
. . . .

 Id. at 9.

 
. . . .
 
Your job is the subject of an unwritten understanding based on mutual trust and agreement between you and the company . . . each expects, and has the ...

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