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Havill v. Woodstock Soapstone Company, Inc.

Vermont Supreme Court
865 A.2d 335 (2004)


Facts

Havill (plaintiff) began working for Woodstock Soapstone Company, Inc. (Woodstock) (defendant) in 1982. She began as a part-time employee, but was working full time when she was let go in 1987 for financial reasons. In 1990, she began part-time employment for Woodstock again, then worked as an independent contract, and then worked full time again in 1994. Woodstock distributed personnel policies in 1994 that provided a system for warnings and termination. The policies also established a “just cause” policy for termination when there were incompatibility problems between employees.  Havill received “very positive” performance reviews in 1995-96, as well as a bonus in 1997. In 1997, due to economic factors, Woodstock hired Scott as a supervisor to oversee reorganizing the company. Tension developed between Havill and Scott and, in September 1997, Havill received a reprimand from Woodstock’s president, though it specifically stated that it was not a “warning.” Tension continued and Havill was terminated in November. When Havill inquired about her termination, Woodstock’s president stated, “You just are.” Woodstock’s business continued to be successful following Havill’s termination. Havill was approximately 58. The week before her termination, Havill informed Woodstock’s president that she had intended to work for the company until she was 68. Three days after she was terminated, Havill found temporary employment that was less pay than her Woodstock position. Havill then became self-employed due to her inability to find other work. In addition to her self-employment, Havill did some work for her husband. Havill filed suit against Woodstock for wrongful discharge. The trial court found in Havill’s favor and awarded her damages. Woodstock appeals both the finding of liability and the damages calculation and Havill appeals the damages calculation to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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