Thompson v. Campbell, Civ. No. 4-92-477.

Citation845 F. Supp. 665
Decision Date18 February 1994
Docket NumberCiv. No. 4-92-477.
PartiesKimberly THOMPSON, Plaintiff, v. Carter CAMPBELL and Provident Life & Accident Insurance Company, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota



Edwin L. Sisam and Sisam & Associates, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, for plaintiff Kimberly Thompson.

Michael B. Chase and Schway & Chase, St. Paul, MN, for defendant Carter Campbell.

Marko J. Mrkonich, John M. Stoxen, Kevin M. Lindsey and Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, St. Paul, MN, for defendant Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co.


DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the motion of defendants for summary judgment. Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the reasons stated below, defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.


In 1990, Provident Life & Accident Insurance Company ("Provident") created a new department dedicated to the sale of group long-term disability ("LTD") insurance. Provident hired Kimberly Thompson ("Thompson") as the Regional Marketing Representative of a region which covered 6 states and was based in Minneapolis. Thompson was hired to sell group LTD products through brokers and independent agents. On March 4, 1992, Provident terminated Thompson. Provident contends that Thompson was fired because she violated its conflict of interest policy by engaging in other insurance business. Thompson alleges, however, that she was fired because she complained about inappropriate behavior, including allegations of sexual harassment, on the part of the Midwest Regional Director, Carter Campbell ("Campbell").

Thompson has worked in the insurance industry since 1979. She progressed from entry level positions to being a regional group sales representative. Thompson was laid off at the end of 1989 and began her own insurance agency which she operated out of her home. In the fall of 1990, Thompson was contacted by a personnel search firm about a regional marketing position with Provident. The search firm allegedly said that although the base salary was $40,000, Thompson could reasonably expect to earn between $65,000 and $70,000 her first year. Thompson expressed interest in the position and the search firm arranged for her to interview with Campbell.

Campbell went to Minnesota to interview Thompson. According to Thompson, Campbell represented that: (1) she could reasonably expect to make between $65,000 and $70,000 her first year with Provident; (2) Provident would hire an assistant for Thompson's office within 6 months; (3) no additional marketing representatives would be hired in Thompson's territory for at least 2 years; (4) Thompson was hired as a manager to develop a six state territory and would receive an override on any additional representative's business; (5) Thompson would not have to turn over her brokers list to Provident without compensation; (6) Thompson could maintain and service her existing accounts; and (7) Thompson would have permanent employment with Provident if she successfully completed the initial 90 day probation period.

After the interview, the search firm called Thompson and extended an offer of employment on behalf of Provident. The search firm also sent Thompson a written offer indicating that her base salary would be $40,000 plus commissions, benefits and a company car. Thompson wrote a letter to Campbell to clarify the agreement concerning her existing accounts. Thompson stated that she had a number of group clients and a few individual clients that she wanted to keep under her agency. Thompson avowed that she only intended to "renew and service" her existing clients and would not be adding any new clients. Thompson indicated that she would work with various carriers when she renewed business. Thompson noted that because she would only be selling group LTD with Provident, servicing her existing clients should not create a conflict of interest.1 Campbell responded that Thompson could continue to service her existing accounts but could not sell group LTD through her agency.

Other than the correspondence concerning Thompson's existing accounts, there were no writings confirming the employment terms. Thompson decided to accept Provident's offer of employment. On November 2, 1990, Thompson completed and signed a job application form provided by Provident. Thompson indicated on the form that her expected salary was negotiable. The application stated that:

Provident makes no representation that employment with the Company is for any specified term of years. While Provident's past record can be illustrated by a long-standing tradition of job security and loyalty to satisfactory employees, Provident reserves the right to terminate employees for the Company's best interest, for unsatisfactory job performance, for unsatisfactory attendance, for violation of Company rules and policies, because an individual's services become excess to the Company's staffing needs, or at the sole discretion of Provident.

Despite the broad language about Provident's right to terminate employees, Thompson stated at her deposition that she understood this provision to mean that Provident could not fire her without good cause.

Provident immediately sent Thompson to Chattanooga, Tennessee for a training seminar. After Thompson returned from the seminar, she signed Provident's conflict of interest form and sent it to Campbell in the Chicago office. The conflict of interest form provided, in relevant part, that:

* * * * * *
2. No employee shall become connected directly or indirectly, with any competing company or industry during the term of his employment except with the written consent of Provident.... Provident solely shall make the determination as to whether there is interference or a competing company.
3. Every employee is required to disclose any outside employment activities or interests ... that conflict or suggest a potential conflict with the business interests of Provident.
* * * * * *
Violation of these rules could lead to disciplinary action including involuntary termination.
I have read the Company's policy statement which is printed above and agree to comply therewith. To the best of my knowledge and belief, I am not involved in any activity and have no outside interests that conflict or suggest a conflict with the business interests of Provident.
If at any time in the future there is ever any doubt as to whether a particular activity or transaction is consistent with Provident's policy, I will refer it to Provident for consideration.

The form also instructed the employee to disclose any outside business or interests that might create a conflict of interest. Thompson left that portion of the form blank and did not indicate any outside business or interests or her agreement with Campbell.

In January 1991, Thompson asked Campbell if she could be a writing agent for Provident individual disability insurance policies. Campbell told Thompson to address the issue with Ted Willard ("Willard"), the Vice President of LTD Sales and Campbell's immediate superior. Thompson wrote to Willard, indicating that occasionally she would have the opportunity to replace individual policies with business clients of her former agency. She inquired whether she could be a writing agent for individual policies with Provident. On February 11, 1991, Willard responded that Thompson could not write individual policies for Provident. Thompson did not ask Willard whether she could write individual policies with other carriers because she believed that her agreement with Campbell already authorized her to do so.2

In early 1991, LTD marketing representatives from Chicago began complaining among themselves about Campbell's conduct. Apparently Campbell managed through arbitrary threats, belittling remarks and intimidation. Campbell also complimented female representatives on their appearance and commented to others on their anatomy and clothing. The representatives seemed to fear Campbell and had little respect for him as a manager. The complaints were communicated to Thompson and, soon thereafter, she began experiencing problems with Campbell.

Thompson considered Campbell a poor manager with little knowledge of LTD insurance. According to Thompson, he dressed inappropriately for business meetings, was unprofessional, brought his family on a business trip and tried to bring his son on a call to a broker. Campbell allegedly gossiped about other employees and commented on their attire, including what clothing accentuated the breasts and buttocks of various female representatives. On several occasions, Campbell placed, or at least attempted to place, his arm around Thompson's shoulders. Thompson also claims that Campbell behaved improperly at several meetings with brokers. On one call, he rubbed a female broker's leg with his foot; on others, he told Thompson to alter quotes without approval from the underwriter. Thompson also contends that Campbell failed to safeguard and often disclosed confidential information about employees including herself.

In the fall of 1991, Thompson and other midwest marketing representatives decided to voice their concerns about Campbell to Mitch Pietruszka ("Pietruszka"), the Vice President of Marketing for the LTD division. Helen Van Pelt ("Van Pelt"), a marketing representative from Denver, met with Pietruszka on October 30, 1991, to express her concerns about Campbell. Van Pelt indicated that her concerns were commonly held and suggested that Pietruszka meet with other marketing representatives in the midwest region. The next day, Pietruszka met with Thompson to hear her complaints about Campbell.3 On November 6, 1991, Pietruszka met individually with each of the marketing representatives in the Chicago office.

Pietruszka concluded that the representatives raised serious issues about Campbell's unprofessional conduct and management...

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