Tim Squires vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Walter Yoka scored a defense verdict for client Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. after a 13-day trial in a wrongful termination case. The plaintiff, a 45-year-old store manager and 22-year employee of Goodyear, was terminated in 1998 after an internal investigation revealed that he had miscoded sales invoices, selling used tires as road hazard warranty and selling used tires to a customer without the requisite waste hauler's permit, all in violation of Goodyear policy. The Goodyear investigator interviewed the plaintiff who admitted to miscoding the invoices. Three weeks after the investigation had begun, plaintiff's at will employment was terminated for violation of work rules. Two weeks after the termination, two Goodyear employees allegedly spoke with friends of plaintiff. When asked what had happened to plaintiff, these employee/defendants allegedly stated that the plaintiff was terminated for miscoding invoices, among other alleged statements.
Plaintiff claimed that there existed an implied contract of employment not to terminate without good cause and that Goodyear breached the contract. Plaintiff admitted to miscoding the invoices but denied any misconduct and claimed that he should have been progressively disciplined rather than discharged. Plaintiff further claimed he was not miscoding for personal gain, but to maintain Goodyear's business. He also claimed that the statements made by the employee/defendants constituted slander.
Defendants argued that there was no implied contract of employment. Plaintiff was an at will employee and could be terminated without cause. Nevertheless, plaintiff's misconduct constituted a good case. Goodyear conducted a good faith and adequate investigation and, based on substantial evidence, had reasonable grounds to believe that plaintiff engaged in misconduct. Finally, defendants argued that the alleged slander statements were not defamatory as they were either true or mere opinions.
The jury returned a defense verdict after deliberating for four hours.