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Mita v. Chubb Computer Services

March 02, 2001

CYNTHIA L. MITA,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
V.
CHUBB COMPUTER SERVICES, INC., CHUBB PROFESSIONAL RESOURCES, INC. AND RICHARD M. SARGENT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY,
DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, L-1618-97.

Before Judges Baime, Wallace, Jr. and Lintner.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baime, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued February 7, 2001

Plaintiff appeals from a summary judgment dismissing her complaint for wrongful termination of employment. She asserts that defendants Chubb Professional Resources, its division Chubb Computer Services, Inc., and the division's chief executive officer Richard Sargent violated their agreement not to fire her for refusing to sign a non-compete clause. We disagree and affirm the summary judgment.

I.

Plaintiff commenced her employment with Chubb Computer Services in 1990 as a technical manager. She was subsequently promoted to operations director. Chubb trained and placed computer professionals with various businesses. Plaintiff's job was to recruit and assign such professionals in return for commissions.

At the time plaintiff was hired she signed an "Employee Acknowledgment" which evidenced her status as an at-will employee. The acknowledgment read:

The employment of any Chubb Programmer Resources employee can be terminated by Chubb Programmer Resources or the employee, with or without cause and with or without notice, at any time.

Plaintiff also received an employee handbook which re- emphasized her at-will status, stating in pertinent part:

The employment relationship which exists between The Chubb Institute and each of its employees is employment-at-will. Under this relationship, any employee is free to end his or her employment with The Chubb Institute at any time for any reason with or without prior notice. Likewise, The Chubb Institute may, at any time, decide to end an individual's employment with or without cause or prior notice, at its sole discretion.

This handbook sets forth certain procedures and guidelines which The Chubb Institute may or may not choose to follow. The statements and contents of this handbook are not promises of any kind by the Chubb Institute, and The Chubb Institute reserves the right to terminate an individual's employment with or without cause, or to charge wages and/or any other term or condition of employment of any employee without any prior consultation or agreement with any employee.

The handbook, amended in 1995, also outlined the procedure whereby an employee's status could be changed. The handbook stated that an employee's at-will status could be changed only by written documentation which: (1) was signed by Chubb Computer Services' President and the individual employee, (2) specifically named the individual employee, (3) expressly stated that the named employee was not employed at-will, and (4) set forth the specific duration and terms of the individual's employment by Chubb Computer Services.

In April of 1995, Chubb decided to expand the use of its non-compete clause throughout the organization to include those thought to be "major salespeople." In May of 1995, at a meeting conducted by her immediate supervisor, Henry Crouse, plaintiff and other sales representatives were ...


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