The Tenth Circuit decided two employment cases today, one involving a First Amendment retaliation claim by a public employee, and the other concerning a claim of termination in breach of an employment contract.
In Wallace v. Microsoft Corp., No. 09-3187, plaintiff claimed that defendant wrongfully terminated him in violation of an employment contract allegedly created by e-mails between plaintiff and his supervisor. The district court granted summary judgment to defendant.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part on the basis that no rational jury, viewing the emails and facts set forth in the record in a light most favorable to plaintiff, could infer the existence of an express employment contract, signed by an officer of defendant setting a minimum employment period, and containing language superseding a prior agreement. However, the court of appeals reversed the judgment in part as to state tort claims, holding that service of process was not untimely because, once his case was removed to federal court, plaintiff then had 120 days in which to effect service.
In Chavez-Rodriguez v. Santa Fe, No. 09-2047, a public employee alleged that she was retaliated against based on her criticism of her employer. The district court denied defendants summary judgment based on qualified immunity.
The court of appeals affirmed on the ground that the content of plaintiff's speech strongly suggested that plaintiff was communicating with her supervisor pursuant to her employment duties, and thus, that she was not entitled to First Amendment protection.