Brooks v. Price Chopper Inc.
Allegations that an employer allegedly misrepresented facts to the Department of Labor, after the employer discharged the plaintiff, may be insufficient to allege a cause of action for tortious interference with a business expectancy or breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In November 2009, the plaintiff, Alonzo Brooks, was injured and went on disability leave. The defendant employer, Price Chopper, allegedly informed Brooks he would be discharged, unless he provided medical documentation, on or before June 4, 2010. Allegedly, Price Chopper wrongly discharged Brooks, although he provided timely documentation. (Price Chopper claimed it did not receive the documentation.) Brooks applied for unemployment benefits, and Price Chopper allegedly misrepresented the facts at a hearing before the Department of Labor. Brooks sued. Price Chopper moved to strike Brooks' wrongful-discharge claim on the grounds Brooks was an employee at will. Brooks argued that allegedly making a false statement to a public agency violates Connecticut General Statutes §53a-157b. The alleged misrepresentation, even if proved, took place after Brooks was discharged. "Statements made to the Labor Department after the termination," wrote the court, "do not provide the employee with a cause of action for wrongful termination." The court granted the motion to strike the wrongful-discharge count. Price Chopper also moved to strike an allegation that the court construed as a claim for tortious interference with business expectancy. The plaintiff failed to cite any court decisions or statutes that permit an unsuccessful applicant for public benefits to sue for interference with a business relationship with a public agency. Even assuming a cause of action existed, Brooks' application for unemployment benefits was successful. The court granted Price Chopper's motion to strike the tortious interference count. Price Chopper also moved to strike the plaintiff's count alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. "An employer may terminate an at-will employee for any reason without having to face civil liability," wrote the court, "unless there is a violation of an important public policy for which the plaintiff does not have a statutory remedy." The court granted the motion to strike.