Grouse v. Group Health Plan, Inc.
- P was a pharmacist at Richter Drug who was seeking employment in a hospital or clinical setting. P was informed that D was seeking a pharmacist.
- P filled out an application and had interviews with the chief pharmacist and general manager of D.
- D offered P a position in a clinic. P accepted, put in his notice at Richter, and told D that he had to give 2 weeks' notice to Richter.
- That afternoon, VA Hospital offered P a job which he declined because of D's offer.
- GM of D told chief pharmacist that they had to get a favorable reference in order to hire P. They could not get one, so D hired someone else.
- P had a hard time finding employment after this.
- Trial court found for D.
- Reversed on appeal, found for P.
- Can the rescinding of an at-will employment contract give rise to a cause of action if the employee relies on the offer and suffers a detriment?
- Promissory estoppel allows for an employee to recover damages if he relies on an offer of at-will employment that is later rescinded, given appropriate circumstances.
- Three questions must be answered affirmatively to support an action for promissory estoppel:
- Was the promise one which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee?
- Did the promise induce such action or forbearance?
- Can injustice be avoided only be enforcement of the promise?
- The employee had a right to assume he would be given a good faith opportunity to perform his duties to the satisfaction of the employer.
- The employee was denied this right and had already resigned from his position in reliance on the offer.
- The prospective employment might have been terminated at any time, so the measure of damages should be what the P lost in quitting the job he held and declining at least one other offer of employment elsewhere.
- Promissory estoppel could even apply after employment has begun since "the remedy granted for breach may be limited as justice requires".