Whitney v. J.M. Scott Associates Inc.
A written employment contract can provide that "adequate cause," such as criminal conduct, is required to discharge a worker. Allegedly, the plaintiff, Walter Whitney, worked at a bank as a senior officer and had business dealings with the defendant, James Scott. In March 2002, Whitney allegedly agreed to work for James Scott at Scott Swimming Pools Inc., pursuant to a five-year employment contract, and to be in charge of business planning and development. The written contract provided that the defendants could discharge Whitney only if they possessed "adequate cause," which was defined as criminal acts, dishonesty or breach of employment duties. The plaintiff employee received 20 shares of stock and a stock option purchase contract that provided that in April 2007 he could purchase outstanding shares of stock for $1.2 million. The plaintiff was discharged in December 2006. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants attempted to end the plaintiff's employment early, to prevent the plaintiff from exercising his right to purchase outstanding stock, and that the defendants anticipatorily breached the employment contract. An attempt to arbitrate the plaintiff's claims in January 2007 was unsuccessful. The plaintiff sued the defendants, alleging that they breached the contracts, engaged in fraud and violated CUTPA, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The defendants moved for summary judgment and argued that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff's claims. The plaintiff objected that the defendants' continuing course of conduct tolled the statute of limitations. There was a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the defendants engaged in an anticipatory breach of the plaintiff's employment contract and refused to pay arbitration fees, and the court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment.