Magazine article Personnel Journal

At-Will Employee May Sue for Fraudulent Inducement

Magazine article Personnel Journal

At-Will Employee May Sue for Fraudulent Inducement

Article excerpt

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held that an at-will attorney who could be terminated without cause may bring suit against her former employer on the grounds that the employer had fraudulently induced her to accept its employment offer.

Victoria A. Stewart was employed as an attorney in the environmental law department of a New York law firm. Ronald Herzog, a partner in another law firm, Jackson & Nash (J & N), suggested that Stewart move to his firm. According to Stewart, J & N represented that it had secured a large environmental law client recently and was in the process of establishing an environmental law department. Stewart also was told that she could head the new department and service the firm's existing environmental law clientele. Stewart claimed that, based on these representations, she left her previous firm, accepted the position offered and began working in 1988. However, upon her arrival, the firm put her to work primarily on general litigation matters. The major environmental law client base never materialized. Two years after Stewart began at the new firm, a partner informed her that the firm had never obtained environmental work and had not secured any environmental law client base. J & N fired Stewart at the end of 1990, admitting it had tried but failed to establish an environmental law clientele.

In her suit, Stewart alleged that: 1) she had relied on misrepresentations concerning the firm's environmental client base when she decided to accept employment with the firm; 2) her career objective of specializing in environmental law had been "thwarted and grossly undermined during her employment"; and 3) as a result, she had suffered loss of professional opportunity and reputation. …

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