action because of his race. Because Mr. Lewis has not linked his
supervisor's comments with his adverse employment action and there is
undisputed evidence that the conflict of interest policy was applied
without regard to race, he has not met this burden.
Summary judgment in favor of NVT on this claim is therefore
III. Breach of Contract Claim
The plaintiff contends that NVT impermissibly changed its policy with
respect to outside employment. See Complaint at 5. NVT had distributed an
employee handbook, which stated that its policy with respect to conflicts
of interest was one of `full disclosure' of outside work with
competitors. See Plaintiff's Opposition, Ex. 9 § 5.3. When NVT told
Mr. Lewis to end his employment with Griffin or he would be fired, he
alleges they violated a term of his employment contract with them, as
embodied in the employee policy manual. See Complaint at 5.
The defendant notes that Mr. Lewis was an at-will employee. See
Defendant's Memorandum Ex. 3 Ex. 11 thereto. NVT argues that because Mr.
Lewis was an at-will employee, NVT was free to change any policy in the
employee manual at its discretion and terminate him if he violated the
newly adopted policy. See Defendant's Memorandum at 18.
The law in the District of Columbia is clear — there is a strong
presumption that at-will employees do not gain contractual rights based on
the statements in an employee policy manual. See, Perkins v. District
Government Employees Federal Credit Union, 653 A.2d 842, 843 (D.C. 1995)
(ambiguous language is "insufficient to overcome the well-established
presumption of an at-will agreement"). See also Fleming v. AT & T,
878 F.2d 1472, 1474-75 (D.C.Cir. 1989) (holding that company literature
stating a preference for "a term of life time employment" cannot form the
basis for a breach of contract claim for an at-will employee).
While NVT has produced a form signed by the plaintiff indicating that
he acknowledges that he is an at-will employee, see Defendant's
Memorandum, Ex. 3, Deposition of Lawrence Lewis, Ex. 11 thereto, the
plaintiff has not pointed to any evidence that suggests that he was not an
at-will employee. The statement in the employee manual that "[w]e ask
that you discuss all possible conflicts with your supervisor," see
Plaintiff's Opposition ex. 9, does not unambiguously confer a contractual
obligation on NVT to limit its conflict of interest policy. While the
plaintiff has directed the Court to a number of cases where employee
policy manuals have been found to change the contractual terms of an
employment relation, none of these cases involves an at-will employment
arrangement. See Plaintiff's Opposition at 17-18. Because Mr. Lewis was
an at-will employee, NVT was free to change its policy with regard to
outside employment and terminate him for violating that policy.
The Court grants summary judgment in favor of the defendant on this
For the forgoing reasons, the Court grants summary judgment for
defendant on all counts.