Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
A Massachusetts employer was not liable for deceit or misrepresentation when it praised an employee’s work, told her she was doing fine and then terminated her, a Massachusetts federal court decided.
Doreen Cagnina started working for Philadelphia Insurance Companies and Maguire Insurance Agency in 1994, consistently receiving positive performance reviews. In 2005 she was promoted to a managerial position with consistent salary and perks.
In the summer of 2010, Cagnina took leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for her adopted son and daughter, at least one of whom had special needs. When her bosses asked about the leave, she said she was uncomfortable around the subject but answered their questions regardless.
By May 2013, the company was noting problems with her work, and gave her a counseling memo setting out her strengths and weaknesses and offering suggestions for improvement. Nevertheless, the same manager who had given her the counseling memo subsequently sent her another message stating that he was "incredibly impressed" with her performance, and another of her bosses told her that the counseling memo did not amount to formal counseling.
Between October, 2013 and April, 2014, Cagnina worked long hours due to understaffing, and was promoted to the position of regional account manager on Jan. 1, 2014. Despite her long hours and hard work, Cagnina took intermittent FMLA leave throughout the final 11 months of her employment due to work-related stress. Eventually, the company terminated her on April 30, 2014.
She sued on a number of bases, including FMLA retaliation and negligent misrepresentation and deceit. The FMLA claim was handled separately from the claims of negligent misrepresentation and deceit. Those the company asked the court to dismiss.
In court, Cagnina claimed that the company falsely stated that any negative feedback in the counseling memo did not constitute formal job counseling, and that no further employment action was anticipated. She also said that praise from her superiors caused her to work overlong hours against the recommendation of her physician.
The company countered that Cagnina was an at-will employee, and as such could not legally build a claim of misrepresentation or deceit on an employer's positive performance feedback or statements about job security.
To make out a good claim of negligent misrepresentation or deceit, the court said, Cagnina had to claim that her employer negligently or willfully made a false statement regarding her employment upon which she reasonably relied.
Even if the company’s statements were false or misleading as to whether the 2013 memo constituted formal job counseling or whether Cagnina's job security was at risk, the court continued, Cagnina did not show that she relied to her detriment on those statements. Indeed, the court said, she conceded that she worked long hours "to meet all of her job requirements" and compensate for her short-staffed department.
The court dismissed the claims.
Cagnina v. Philadelphia Insurance Companies, D. Mass.,CIVIL NO. 1:14-cv-13049-PBS (Nov. 24, 2014).
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
HR Education in a City Near You
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies