On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Middlesex County, SC-1502-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Stern, Rodríguez and Ashrafi.
Defendant appeals from an "order for entry of Judgment" in the amount of $3,000, plus costs, following a bench trial in the Special Civil Part - Small Claims Section. Defendant contends that "[t]he trial court erred in determining that [its] driver's manual created a contract of employment" and "erred in finding that [it] unlawfully terminated [plaintiff's] employment". We reverse the judgment.
The facts developed at trial included the following. Plaintiff became employed by defendant in February 2008 as a commercial driver. On February 20, 2008, he signed a "Certificate of Understanding and Agreement," which stated:
I certify that I have received a copy of the J.B. Hunt Transport Driver's Manual published June 1, 2005. I have read and understand the provisions outlined in this manual and agree to follow them. I also understand that the provisions in this manual by no means constitute all the rules, policies and benefits, both written and unwritten, as business requires. Neither these rules, policies and benefits, nor any other written or oral statement are contracts of employment and both the employee and the Company understand that employment may be terminated by either at any time for any reason.
Further, I understand that should I become liable for any fines or charges, I hereby authorize J.B. Hunt Transport to deduct the pay adjustment(s) from my base wage as outlined in the Payroll section of this manual.
I certify I have read and understand the policy on Accident Reporting as outlined in the Driver's Manual. I agree to abide by this policy.
I certify I have read and understand the actions, as presented in orientation, which may result in Automatic Termination on the first offense, with no review.
This is to verify that I have been issued and instructed to keep in my possession, or in my truck, a complete copy of the Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. (FMCSR)
I have been instructed by J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. to familiarize myself with the contents of the Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. (FMCSR)
I certify that I have completed J.B. Hunt Transport's E.E.O. Training and Awareness Program (Non-Discrimination Policy) as ...