The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRENAS
This matter appears before the Court on the motion of defendants Host Marriott Services Corporation ("Host Marriott"), Tom O'Hare ("O'Hare") and Ruth Crowley-Jacinto ("Crowley-Jacinto") for summary judgment on plaintiff Elisa Wong Monroe's ("Monroe") complaint alleging defamation, breach of contract, and wrongful termination. For the reasons that follow, we will grant summary judgment to defendants on each of plaintiff's claims.
On September 26, 1994, Monroe started her employment with Host Marriott as a Merchandise Manager in the Atlantic City branch. She remained with Host Marriott, receiving mostly favorable reviews, until November 1, 1996, at which time she was terminated. Host Marriott contends that Monroe was terminated because her position was eliminated as a result of a business decision to reduce staff in the Atlantic City branch. Monroe, on the other hand, claims she was terminated in retaliation for her invocation of grievance procedures seeking vindication for an alleged defamatory memorandum.
The events giving rise to this lawsuit began on January 5, 1996, when Monroe's supervisor, Jerry Thompson ("Thompson") read a memorandum dated January 4, 1996 (the "Memo") from Thompson's superior, defendant O'Hare, aloud to the assembled Host Marriott management staff in Atlantic City. Thompson read the Memo to the group in order to prepare a requested response to O'Hare. The Memo criticized several aspects of the Atlantic City's branch's performance, including three specific references to the Merchandise Manager, Monroe's position. O'Hare prepared the Memo with assistance from defendant Ruth Crowley-Jacinto ("Crowley-Jacinto"). O'Hare is the Executive Vice President in charge of operations, and is based at the Host Marriott headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. Crowley-Jacinto is a Vice-President for Retail at the Host Marriott headquarters in Bethesda. She serves as a consultant to O'Hare and Thompson on retail matters.
Plaintiff claims that the Memo contained defamatory statements about her. The eight allegations which plaintiff claims are defamatory of her are:
Item 1: "Eye off the ball during summer cost us sales and profits . . . ."
Item 7: "Branch has not conducted retail certification training. If they had, associates and managers would have been better prepared for business and better equipped to mange it."
Item 8: "Branch is not adequately positioned for summer business including: - product mix geared to older clientele vs. collegiate groups."
Item 9: "Product mix in branch does not meet customer profile . . . . insufficient value promotions for customer, excess p.o.p. markdowns thus making purchasing more difficult for clientele . . . ."
Item 10: "Lack of follow through at merchandise manager level including:
- putting training received at last three meetings to work in the business and sharing that new knowledge with managers and associates
- lack of responsiveness to ideas, programs, etc.
- reaction too slow to business trends/seasonal needs e.g. gift sales off as much as 100% in some stores but timely action not taken, shirts from last spring are still shown but designs should have turned over 2-3 times since
- lack of value pricing which better responds to customer mix (in spite of repeated offers and calls initiated by To a Tee, HRLA, etc. who could have provided same to drive sales ...