Eib v. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, WD

Decision Date09 March 1982
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
Citation633 S.W.2d 432
PartiesAnn EIB, nee: Conner, Appellant, v. FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF KANSAS CITY, et al., Respondents. 32208.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Daniel J. Devine and Robert K. Ball, II, Kansas City, for appellant.

John C. Dods and Gary R. Long, Kansas City, for respondents; Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Kansas City, of counsel.

Before TURNAGE, P. J., and PRITCHARD and CLARK, JJ.

PRITCHARD, Judge.

In Count I of her petition appellant claimed damages against the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City for its alleged failure to state the true reason for her termination (on August 12, 1977), under the service letter statute, § 290.140, RSMo. 1969. Count II of her claim was against individual defendants, Donald A. Slover, alleged to be vice president of Federal Reserve, and Enis Alldredge, alleged to be its assistant vice president. It was pleaded in Count II that appellant, before August 12, 1977, was in a contractual relationship with Federal Reserve and was legally entitled to and was receiving benefits in the form of salary, hospitalization insurance, retirement, and savings, with an expectation of advancement and promotion; that Slover and Alldredge, unlawfully and without justification, agreed and conspired to and did cause appellant's employment to be terminated solely and only by reason of their Federal Reserve executive positions, in these here paraphrased respects: (A) they caused the termination for purported violation of a regulation of Federal Reserve, when appellant was not in violation of any such regulation; (B) they caused the violation in such manner that appellant was coerced, intimidated and prohibited from availing herself of benefits of Federal Reserve's employee grievance procedure; and (C) she was discriminated against in regard to the reason given for her termination (engagement to be married to another Federal Reserve employee) in that other such employees are engaged and married without any reprisal, termination, or other loss of job or status. The trial court granted respondents' motion for summary judgment and entered judgment on both counts against appellant.

In response to appellant's request, Federal Reserve, on February 28, 1978, issued its service letter to her signed by respondent Alldredge. In pertinent parts, the letter informed: "You were employed from May 7, 1975, until August 12, 1977, as an elevator operator. You were employed under the name of Audrey Ann Conner. Your employment was terminated because of your engagement and pending marriage to your supervisor. The bank has a policy which prohibits relatives or prospective relatives of supervisors from being employed by the bank. Your work performance was rated as satisfactory while you were employed by the bank." Under Point I, appellant contends that the summary judgment was erroneously entered because Federal Reserve does not have a policy prohibiting continued employment by two employees engaged to each other and she could not have been terminated in accordance with a nonexistent policy, and thus the reason stated in the service letter was false.

The service letter statute, § 290.140, RSMo.1978, requires that upon request of an employee who has been discharged or has voluntarily quit shall be issued "a letter, duly signed by such superintendent or manager, setting forth the nature and character of service rendered by such employee to such corporation and the duration thereof, and truly stating for what cause, if any, such employee has quit such service; * * *."

Depositions were presented in support of Federal Reserve's motion for summary judgment. Appellant had been dating Jim Eib for about eight months prior to her termination, and that relationship was causing problems in her department. She was aware that it provoked gossip among her co-workers who believed that she was getting special treatment because she was dating the supervisor. Appellant admitted that she knew it was the bank's policy not to have married couples within the same department, and that she was told specifically that the reason for her termination was the impending marriage, and she did not know of any other reason why she would be terminated. According to Alldredge, he knew that there was friction in appellant's department and he tried to transfer her to another, and on being unable to do that, he and Slover decided to terminate her.

Under this posture of the case, the question is whether the foregoing facts show that there is a material question of fact yet to be determined in the face of the motion for summary judgment. This, in turn, requires a consideration of whether the facts show as a matter of law, that the reasons given in the service letter to appellant were not false.

Federal Reserve's Rule 13 deals with its personnel and payroll policies. Paraphrased, and as pertinent, it provides that when two employees marry, each may continue employment providing they are in different departments and there appears to be no security risk or conflict of interest; if they are in the same department an appropriate transfer will be made, but if it cannot be made, one or the other shall resign in two months.

In Terranova v. Western Auto, 589 S.W.2d 362 (Mo.App.1979), plaintiff made a similar allegation as was done in this case-that a stated reason for discharge was false. The letter stated that the discharge was caused by apparent irregularities in cash payout slips to customers and customers' denials of receipt of the full amount shown. Plaintiff claimed that the reason given was an accusation that she stole, and her denial thereof showed that the reason was false. The court said, page 363(1, 2), "The issue before the jury was not whether Dorothy had stolen any money but was whether the company had stated the true cause of her dismissal in its letter. Dorothy had the burden of proving the negative, i.e. that the reason stated in the letter was not the true reason she was dismissed. Potter v. Milbank Manufacturing Company, 489 S.W.2d 197, 203(1) (Mo.1972)." See also Newman v. Greater Kansas City Baptist and Community Hospital Association, 604 S.W.2d 619, 622(3) (Mo.App.1980), where the court reversed a judgment for plaintiff for lack of a submissible case, the court saying, "The burden of proof Potter describes for a plaintiff, nevertheless, is to prove that the reason stated for the discharge was not true, but ulterior. * * * In fact, the evidence allows no inference other than that she was terminated because-without pretext, guile or ulterior motive-the hospital believed she stole. There was no proof that the reason given was a foil for a true but undisclosed cause.". Contrast Dwyer v. Busch Properties, Inc., 624 S.W.2d 848 (Mo. banc 1981) (handed down December 14, 1981), where there was evidence that the employee's dismissal was possibly the result of a desire to cut overhead; planned abandonment of the project; or no further need of the employee's services, which created a jury question as to whether the service letter statement, loss of confidence in the employee's ability to discharge his responsibilities, was the true reason for his discharge.

Here, appellant confuses the validity of a stated reason with whether it was a true reason. It matters not whether Federal Reserve's employee policies extended to those who became engaged to be married. It is not shown that that given reason was false, ulterior or pretextual. In that connection, appellant sought leave to file an amended...

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2 cases
  • Bethea v. Levi Strauss & Co., 86-2217
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • November 13, 1987
    ...Eyewear, Inc., 700 S.W.2d 859, 870-71 (Mo.App.1985); Arie v. Intertherm, Inc., 648 S.W.2d 142, 150 (Mo.App.1983); Eib v. Federal Reserve Bank, 633 S.W.2d 432, 435 (Mo.App.1982). There was no evidence presented of an employment contract for a definite term or of a contrary statutory provisio......
  • Gallup v. State, WD
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • March 9, 1982
    ... ...         John Ashcroft, Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, Philip M. Koppe, Asst. Atty. Gen., Kansas City, for ... ...
1 books & journal articles
  • Section 40 Nature of Action
    • United States
    • The Missouri Bar Employer-Employee Law Deskbook Chapter 6 Employees Not
    • Invalid date
    ...v. National Elec. Contractors Ass’n, Inc., 588 S.W.2d 199, 202 (Mo. App. W.D. 1979); Eib v. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 633 S.W.2d 432, 435–36 (Mo. App. W.D. 1982). In Eib, the court described the action as one for intentional interference with a noncontractual employment relations......

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