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In Woolley v. Hoffmann-LaRoche, why did the trial court dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint and grant the defendant employer's motion for summary judgment? Explain how the New Jersey Supreme Court decided this case and what its view of the importance of the company's employment manual was. Do you think the court's decision was fair to both parties?

In Woolley v. Hoffmann-LaRoche, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's claim that the company's employment manual served as a binding contract, but the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the decision because the manual did not contain a prominent disclaimer to show that it was not binding and could be changed at will.

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To help you answer these questions, let's review the facts of Woolley v. Hoffmann-LaRoche . The issue here surrounds an employee handbook or manual distributed by Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc. The plaintiff, Richard Woolley, was an employee of this company, and when he was hired, he received no written employment contract. However,...

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To help you answer these questions, let's review the facts of Woolley v. Hoffmann-LaRoche. The issue here surrounds an employee handbook or manual distributed by Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc. The plaintiff, Richard Woolley, was an employee of this company, and when he was hired, he received no written employment contract. However, he did receive the employment manual that he read and regarded as binding upon both employer and employee. This manual, the plaintiff claimed, served as a contract and stated that he could not be fired at will but only with due cause. Woolley was fired from the company without cause after refusing to resign. Hoffmann-LaRoche claimed that the manual was not a binding contract.

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant that the employee manual was not a binding contract and that, therefore, the company could fire Woolley at will in spite of what was written in the manual. The appellate court agreed. The New Jersey Supreme Court, however, noted that the employment manual did indeed serve as a binding agreement because it did not include a prominent disclaimer stating otherwise. As such, the information in the handbook had to be followed by both employer and employee. Since the manual stated that employees had to be fired only for due cause and not at will, Hoffmann-LaRoche broke the agreement when it fired Woolley. The court further noted that if an employer does not want the manual to be a binding contract, then it must say so clearly in the manual itself that the terms of the document are not binding and that the employer is free to change them at will.

As for fairness, the state Supreme Court's decision does appear to be fair, especially since the plaintiff was fired without cause when the manual (with no disclaimer) clearly stated that an employ cannot be fired only at the will of the company.

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