Hopes v. Black Hills Power and Light Co., 14872

Decision Date12 September 1985
Docket NumberNo. 14872,14872
Citation386 N.W.2d 490
Parties122 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2963, 104 Lab.Cas. P 55,586 Jean A. HOPES, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BLACK HILLS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY, Defendant and Appellee. . Considered on Briefs
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Ramon A. Roubideaux, Rapid City, for plaintiff and appellant.

Portia K. Brown of Morrill, Hansen, Hubbard & Brown, Rapid City, for defendant and appellee.

PER CURIAM.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted to defendant Black Hills Power and Light Company (Black Hills). We affirm.

Plaintiff Jean A. Hopes began working for Black Hills as a district clerk in 1978. The parties had no employment contract, and Black Hills made no promises to Hopes about the length of her employment. Black Hills does have a performance appraisal procedure which calls for semi-annual reviews of each employee; the purpose of the procedure is to evaluate and document the employee's work performance. The procedure does not contain any rules regarding the discharge of employees.

In 1980, Hopes began to suffer from epilepsy. Her condition deteriorated during 1982, and as of September 8, 1982, she considered herself totally disabled; this total disability continued well into 1983. According to Black Hills' rules, Hopes was supposed to have a work performance appraisal in September of 1982, but the appraisal was never conducted. In November of 1982, Hopes obtained a letter from her doctor which informed Black Hills that Hopes would be off work for a period up to four weeks. When the four weeks had elapsed, Hopes did not return to work, nor did she make arrangements for an extension of her medical leave. Consequently, Black Hills discharged Hopes from her employment.

Hopes filed suit against Black Hills alleging, among other things, that Black Hills wrongfully discharged her since it did not follow its own performance appraisal procedures. Black Hills moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion.

The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. SDCL 15-6-56(c) states that summary judgment shall be rendered if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In making these determinations, the trial court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Wilson v. Great Northern Ry. Co., 83 S.D. 207, 157 N.W.2d 19 (1968). Hopes contends that a factual issue exists as to whether Black Hills' performance appraisal procedure creates an implied promise to discharge employees for good cause only. She urges us to follow a number of other courts which have held that employers may be contractually bound to their policy provisions concerning employee job security.

As a general rule, the hiring of an employee for an indefinite term may be terminated at the will of either party. 56 C.J.S. Master and Servant Sec. 31 (1948). In recent years, certain exceptions to this rule have been found. Some courts have held that termination policies stated in employee manuals or handbooks become a part of the employment contract, thereby limiting the employer's right to discharge at-will employees. However, numerous other courts have...

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  • Setliff v. Akins
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • September 6, 2000
    ...will of the employer under SDCL 60-4-4." Larson v. Kreiser's, Inc., 472 N.W.2d 761, 762-63 (S.D.1991) (citing Hopes v. Black Hills Power & Light Co., 386 N.W.2d 490 (S.D. 1986); Tombollo v. Dunn, 342 N.W.2d 23 (S.D.1984)). See also Jane Wipf Pfeifle & Steven J. Helmers, The Evolving Boundar......
  • Rood v. General Dynamics Corp.
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • September 21, 1993
    ...benefit is realized overall.32 Kay v. United Technologies Corp., 757 F.2d 100, 101-102 (C.A. 6, 1985); Hopes v. Black Hills Power & Light Co., 386 N.W.2d 490, 491 (S.D.1986).33 Dipietro v. Jefferson Bank, 123 Lab L R (CCH), p 57,093, 1992 WL 166558 (1992).34 GDLS argues that the SP 2-415 "d......
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    ... ... Dakota Gear & Joint Co., Inc., 433 N.W.2d 221 (S.D.1988); Larson I, ... Hopes v. Black Hills Power and Light Co., 386 N.W.2d ... ...
  • Dirks v. Sioux Valley Empire Elec. Ass'n, Inc., 16463
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    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • May 25, 1989
    ...342 N.W.2d 23, 25-6 (S.D.1984). Our holdings in Osterkamp v. Alkota Mfg., 332 N.W.2d 275 (S.D.1983), followed by Hopes v. Black Hills Power & Light, 386 N.W.2d 490 (S.D.1986); Blote v. First Federal Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 422 N.W.2d 834 (S.D.1988); and Johnson v. Kreiser's, Inc., 433 N.W.2d 225......
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