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Woolley v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc.

Supreme Court of New Jersey
491 A.2d 1257 (N.J. 1985)


Facts

Beginning in 1969, Richard Woolley (plaintiff) was employed as an engineering-section head for Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. (Hoffmann) (defendant). Woolley did not have an employment contract with Hoffmann. In December 1969, Woolley received Hoffmann’s Personnel Policy Manual (manual). The manual included a termination clause, providing that employees would only be fired for cause, and setting forth a specific procedure to attempt to rehabilitate employees before resorting to termination. Hoffmann distributed the manual to all of its employees. In 1978, Hoffmann lost confidence in Woolley after discovering piping problems. Hoffmann terminated Woolley’s employment without following the procedures outlined in the manual. Woolley sued Hoffmann for breach of contract, alleging that the termination clause in the manual constituted a binding provision that prevented Hoffmann from terminating Woolley’s employment without cause. Hoffmann argued that the termination provision was not contractually binding and that Woolley could be fired without cause because he was an at-will employee. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hoffmann. The appellate division affirmed. Woolley appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wilentz, C.J.)

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