King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., No. 24179

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtCHANDLER
Citation453 S.E.2d 885,317 S.C. 385
Parties, 130 Lab.Cas. P 57,900, 10 IER Cases 337 Merritt H. KING, III, Respondent, v. PYA/MONARCH, INC., Appellant. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 24179
Decision Date20 September 1994

Page 885

453 S.E.2d 885
317 S.C. 385, 130 Lab.Cas. P 57,900,
10 IER Cases 337
Merritt H. KING, III, Respondent,
v.
PYA/MONARCH, INC., Appellant.
No. 24179.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard Sept. 20, 1994.
Decided Jan. 9, 1995.

Page 886

[317 S.C. 386] Charles T. Speth, II, Jeffrey M. Nelson, of Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson and Greaves, P.A., Columbia, for appellant.

James P. Stevens, Jr., of Stevens, Stevens, Thomas & Snook, Loris, for respondent.

CHANDLER, Chief Justice:

In this wrongful termination case, Appellant PYA/Monarch, Inc. (PYA) appeals a judgment in favor of Respondent Merritt H. King (King). We affirm.

FACTS

King was employed by PYA in August 1983 as a sales representative and was terminated on November 9, 1990, following which King instituted this action for wrongful termination.

At the time of employment, King was given oral assurances of job security, guaranteeing that he could not be terminated without just cause.

In turn, King was required to sign a document entitled "Rules and Regulations." This document states, in part:

Verbal warnings or written reprimands may be issued to employees by the Supervisors or Warehouse Managers for violations of the following Company rules. A copy of the reprimand will be placed in the individual's personnel file. At the discretion of the Warehouse Managers one serious violation of a Company rule, or an accumulation of three or more reprimands may be considered cause for termination of employment. (emphasis supplied).

The document also states that "[d]isciplinary action will be in accordance with the established policy of the Company."

The only established policy contained in the record is a "Branch Operating Manual" (Manual) setting forth PYA's[317 S.C. 387] "policy and procedures." The Manual emphasizes the importance of written records of an employee's unsatisfactory performance, and requires that a written report of each offense be provided the employee and placed in his personnel file. Included in the Manual is an "Employee Notice" form containing four boxes entitled, "First Warning," "Second Warning," "Suspension," and "Termination." The Manual also sets forth a severance pay schedule which was rescinded by PYA in

Page 887

July 1985. Although King and other employees were not given copies of the Manual, he testified he was aware of its existence and was told that three warnings would be issued before termination. King further testified that at time of his employment, he was advised about PYA's severance pay policy.

In 1988, Rick Barrett became PYA's District Sales Manager and King's immediate supervisor. Barrett testified that he had numerous discussions with King regarding his job performance. Any deficiencies were documented and written notes placed in a special file which he personally maintained on King.

In October 1989, King and other sales representatives were given a new "Employment Agreement" to sign. This document set forth a new sales commission formula and provided that, in consideration of the new formula, sales representatives were employees-at-will. The agreement further provided that it superseded all prior agreements and could be modified or amended only in writing, and signed by both parties. When King objected, he was told that he would be fired for failure to sign. King signed, but alleged he did so under duress.

PYA's General Manager, Durwood Owens, testified he met with King in March 1990 to discuss performance problems. Owens made detailed notes of the meeting and placed them in a special file which he personally maintained on King. In April 1990, a second meeting was held with King, at which Owens, Barrett, and another manager were present. Owens advised King that, unless his performance improved, he "was gone."

In May 1990, Barrett again met with King concerning his "collection" problems. Barrett told King he would receive a written reprimand which would be discussed with the sales manager. King was given an Employee's Notice and the box designated "First Warning" was checked. The form noted that [317 S.C. 388] King was "being written up for not turning in collections within Company guidelines...." King testified he was told by his supervisors that two more warnings would be required before termination. This written warning was never placed in King's personnel file. King was terminated on November 9, 1990, no further written warnings having been issued.

King instituted this action for wrongful termination. The case was referred to the Master, with direct appeal to this Court. The Master, sitting without a jury, found the following:

1. PYA's Rules and Regulations and its Manual formed an employment contract at the time of King's hire in 1983;

2. The 1989 Employment Agreement was void for lack of consideration, and had been entered into by King under duress;

3. Even if the 1989 Agreement was valid, it was subsequently modified by PYA's oral assurances, and the act of issuing King a "First Warning" in May 1990; and

4. PYA had breached its employment contract with King by failing to give him three written warnings and by failing to place any warnings in his personnel file.

King was awarded a total of $71,605 damages, which included $6,372.45 in severance pay.

ISSUES

1. Did the Master err in finding that the Rules and Regulations and...

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37 practice notes
  • Solley v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, Inc., No. 4937.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 1 February 2012
    ...S.E.2d 771, 773 (Ct.App.1997). The trial court's findings are equivalent to a jury's findings in a law action. King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 389, 453 S.E.2d 885, 888 (1995). “We must look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the respondents and eliminate from considerat......
  • SEA CABINS v. City of North Myrtle Beach, No. 3050.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 4 October 1999
    ...unless there is no evidence reasonably supporting them. Crary v. Djebelli, 329 S.C. 385, 496 S.E.2d 21 (1998); King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 453 S.E.2d 885 (1995). Townes Assoc. Ltd. v. City of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 221 S.E.2d 773 LAW/ANALYSIS The City argues Sea Cabins' claim......
  • Vieira v. Vice (In re Legacy Dev. SC Grp., LLC), C/A No. 12–06435–dd
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • 13 May 2015
    ...of contracts, and these oral modifications can be evidence of a subsequent agreement or modification. King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 453 S.E.2d 885, 889 (1995). However, to determine that there is a subsequent agreement, a party must provide evidence supporting the necessary eleme......
  • Michelle L. Vieira, for SC Grp., LLC v. Vice (In re, Legacy Dev. SC Grp., LLC), C/A No. 12-06435-dd.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • 13 May 2015
    ...of contracts, and these oral modifications can be evidence of a subsequent agreement or modification. King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 453 S.E.2d 885, 889 (1995). However, to determine that there is a subsequent agreement, a party must provide evidence supporting the necessary eleme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Solley v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, Inc., No. 4937.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 1 February 2012
    ...S.E.2d 771, 773 (Ct.App.1997). The trial court's findings are equivalent to a jury's findings in a law action. King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 389, 453 S.E.2d 885, 888 (1995). “We must look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the respondents and eliminate from considerat......
  • SEA CABINS v. City of North Myrtle Beach, No. 3050.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 4 October 1999
    ...unless there is no evidence reasonably supporting them. Crary v. Djebelli, 329 S.C. 385, 496 S.E.2d 21 (1998); King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 453 S.E.2d 885 (1995). Townes Assoc. Ltd. v. City of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 221 S.E.2d 773 LAW/ANALYSIS The City argues Sea Cabins' claim......
  • Vieira v. Vice (In re Legacy Dev. SC Grp., LLC), C/A No. 12–06435–dd
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • 13 May 2015
    ...of contracts, and these oral modifications can be evidence of a subsequent agreement or modification. King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 453 S.E.2d 885, 889 (1995). However, to determine that there is a subsequent agreement, a party must provide evidence supporting the necessary eleme......
  • Michelle L. Vieira, for SC Grp., LLC v. Vice (In re, Legacy Dev. SC Grp., LLC), C/A No. 12-06435-dd.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • 13 May 2015
    ...of contracts, and these oral modifications can be evidence of a subsequent agreement or modification. King v. PYA/Monarch, Inc., 317 S.C. 385, 453 S.E.2d 885, 889 (1995). However, to determine that there is a subsequent agreement, a party must provide evidence supporting the necessary eleme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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