Ware v. Converse County School Dist. No. 2, No. 89-69

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore CARDINE; MACY; URBIGKIT; GOLDEN
Citation789 P.2d 872
Parties59 Ed. Law Rep. 910, 5 IER Cases 399 Judith WARE, Appellant (Plaintiff), v. CONVERSE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 2, Appellee (Defendant).
Docket NumberNo. 89-69
Decision Date06 April 1990

Page 872

789 P.2d 872
59 Ed. Law Rep. 910, 5 IER Cases 399
Judith WARE, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
CONVERSE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 2, Appellee (Defendant).
No. 89-69.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
April 6, 1990.

Page 873

Bernard Q. Phelan, Cheyenne, for appellant.

Alan B. Minier of Hirst & Applegate, Cheyenne, for appellee.

Before CARDINE, C.J., and THOMAS, URBIGKIT, MACY and GOLDEN, JJ.

MACY, Justice.

Appellant Judith Ware sued Appellee Converse County School District No. 2, seeking damages for breach of her employment contract and breach of the School District's duty to follow its policies and regulations. Ware alleged that those breaches were the result of the School District's failure to follow its intra-district transfer policy, which required notification of vacant positions. The district court granted the School District's motion for summary judgment.

We affirm.

Ware presents the following issues:

I

Was there a genuine issue of material fact regarding Appellant's breach of contract claim?

II

Was there a genuine issue of material fact as to the claim for breach of the contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing?

Ware signed an employment contract with the School District to work as a custodian at the Glenrock Middle School from July 1, 1985, to May 31, 1986. The contract provided that either Ware or the School District could terminate the contract at any time for sufficient cause and that:

T]he District agrees to re-employ the employee for the succeeding fiscal and/or school year at a rate not less than the amount listed above unless it gives notice to the contrary on or before June 1st; provided the employee is re-employed for the same duties and provided the employee meets any new or changed qualifications[.

The contract also stated:

T]his contract is subject to laws of the State of Wyoming; to all rules and regulations of the State Board of Education including necessary licensing or certification; to the District Board of Education policies and to all amendments and revisions thereof[.

During the term of Ware's employment, the School District maintained an intra-district transfer policy which stated:

When a classified position vacancy occurs within the staff, notice of such vacancy will be posted in each school building of the district for a period of five working days. Employees of the district who qualify for the vacancy and who wish to transfer to that position and building must complete the "Request for Intra-District Transfer" form; have the form signed by the Principals; and submit the form to the Assistant Superintendent's office by the end of the fifth working day from the date of posting.

(Emphasis added.) The School District also utilized a reduction in force (RIF) policy which provided in pertinent part:

When, in the sole, exclusive, and final judgment of the Board, decline in enrollment, reduction of program, or any other reason requires reduction in classified staff, the administration will attempt to accomplish that by attrition. In the event that necessary reduction in staff

Page 874

cannot be adequately accomplished by attrition and given the necessity to hire or maintain the most competent and qualified staff available in the interests of perpetuating the highest quality program possible, the administration will base its decision as to resulting contract renewals on the relative skill, ability, competence, and qualifications of available staff to do the available work.

Sometime before May 8, 1986, the School District learned that Kathleen Williams, a high school custodian, intended to vacate her position at the end of the 1985-86 school year. The School District planned to authorize the transfer of Tom Hoyt, an elementary school custodian, to that position because the School District was eliminating his position under its RIF policy. Hoyt was the son of the assistant superintendent.

On May 8, 1986, the School District's board accepted Williams' resignation and approved Hoyt's contract for the following year. On that date, the board also decided to eliminate Ware's position under the RIF policy. The superintendent subsequently ordered that Ware be given an opportunity to compete for the high school position and instructed Hoyt's father to remove himself from the hiring process. The School District did not post notice of the vacancy in accordance with its transfer policy.

Through a letter dated May 12, 1986, Ware received notice that her position was being terminated and that she could apply for the vacant position. Two School District employees interviewed Hoyt and Ware, and they recommended that Hoyt be offered the vacant position. Hoyt received the job.

On January 20, 1988, Ware filed a lawsuit, alleging that the School District had failed to follow its transfer policy which required the School District to post notice of a classified position vacancy in each school building for five working days. Ware asserted that the School District filled a vacant position in violation of its policy and caused her incidental and consequential damages. Ware sought recovery on the following theories: breach of contract, negligence, tort, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The School District moved for a summary judgment, which the district court granted on February 8, 1989. In its decision letter, the court stated that Ware had an equal opportunity to apply for the vacant position and that she was not prejudiced by the School District's failure to comply with the transfer policy.

The grant of a summary judgment is proper if no genuine issue of material fact exists and if the prevailing party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co. v. Albany County School District No. 1, 763 P.2d 1255 (Wyo.1988); Teton Plumbing and Heating, Inc. v. Board of Trustees, Laramie County School District Number One, 763 P.2d 843 (Wyo.1988). In this case, the parties do not dispute the fact that the School District failed to follow its intra-district transfer policy. The question is whether that omission constituted an actionable breach of contract or an actionable breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Ware argues that her contract incorporated the School District's intra-district transfer policy and that the School District breached her contract when it failed to post notice of the vacancy in accordance with that policy. The facts in this case are analogous to the facts in Leonard v. Converse County School District No. 2, 788 P.2d 1119 (Wyo.1990). In that case, we held that the school district's failure to follow its policy and regulation, which required written evaluations of initial contract teachers, did not constitute an actionable breach of contract because, " '[a]lthough the contract is specifically subject to the "policies, rules, and regulations of the school district," these particular provisions did not operate to afford appellant any contractual right of employment.' " Id. at 1122 (quoting Roberts v. Lincoln County School District Number One, 676 P.2d 577, 582 (Wyo.1984)). The school district's failure to evaluate Leonard

Page 875

did not affect its authority to terminate her employment. Leonard, 788 P.2d 1119.

In this case, Ware, like an initial contract teacher, did not have a contractual right to employment after the expiration of her contract. Ware's contract provided that the School District agreed to reemploy Ware unless it gave notice to the contrary on or before June 1st. Timely notice was the only contractual constraint on the School District's power to terminate Ware's employment after her contract expired.

In addition, the intra-district transfer policy contained the following provision: "Nothing in this policy alters administratively determined transfers which are implemented in consideration of the best interests of students and the needs of the district." This provision gave the School District the discretion to make transfer decisions notwithstanding the remainder of the intra-district transfer policy. Absent a showing of an abuse of that discretion, we will not interfere with the School District's decision. Hyatt v. Big Horn School District No. 4, 636 P.2d 525 (Wyo.1981). Ware has failed to present us with any evidence indicating such an abuse. We hold that the School District's failure to post notice in accordance with its intra-district transfer policy did not constitute an actionable breach of contract.

Ware also asserts that the School District breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by not following its intra-district transfer policy. See generally Nelson v. Crimson Enterprises, Inc., 777 P.2d 73 (Wyo.1989) (discussing the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing). We have previously held that this covenant does not apply to the termination of at-will employment relationships, Mobil Coal Producing, Inc. v. Parks, 704 P.2d 702 (Wyo.1985), or to the termination of contracts between school districts and initial contract teachers. Leonard, 788 P.2d 1119. This Court, however, has adopted and recently utilized the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 90(1) (1981) in response to a claim for wrongful discharge of an employee. McDonald v. Mobil Coal Producing, Inc., 789 P.2d 866 (Wyo.1990). Section 90(1) provides:

A promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance on the part of the promisee or a third person and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. The remedy granted for breach may be limited as justice requires.

We held that an employee's expectation of employment could be altered by an employer's representation if: (1) the employer should have reasonably expected the employee to consider the representation as a commitment from the employer; (2) the employee reasonably relied upon the representation to his...

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6 practice notes
  • Hatfield v. Rochelle Coal Co., No. 90-156
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 15, 1991
    ...Neither, have we recognized such a covenant when the employment is strictly "at-will." See Ware v. Converse County School Dist. No. 2, 789 P.2d 872, 875 (Wyo.1990); 1 McDonald v. Mobil Coal Producing, Page 1310 Inc., 789 P.2d 866, 869 (Wyo.1990); Nelson v. Crimson Enterprises, Inc., 777 P.2......
  • Wilder v. Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, No. 93-22
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 25, 1994
    ...788 P.2d at 1122. In my view, this court expanded that partial answer to a complete answer in Ware v. Converse County Sch. Dist. No. 2, 789 P.2d 872 (Wyo.1990), by holding that the implied covenant theory does not apply to a discharged school custodian who was an at-will employee of the sch......
  • Creel v. L & L, Inc., No. S–11–0138.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 14, 2012
    ...party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Franks, ¶ 9, 96 P.3d at 490;Ware v. Converse Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 2, 789 P.2d 872, 874 (Wyo.1990). A genuine issue of material fact is a fact which, if proven, “would have the effect of establishing or refuting an essential ......
  • Duart v. FMC Wyoming Corp., No. 93-CV-0349-J.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • August 5, 1994
    ...of Contracts § 90(1) (1981) in response to a claim for wrongful discharge of an employee. Ware v. Converse County School District No. 2, 789 P.2d 872, 875 (Wyo.1990). The Wyoming Court, relying upon this section of the Restatement, held an employee's expectation of employment could be alter......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Hatfield v. Rochelle Coal Co., No. 90-156
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 15, 1991
    ...Neither, have we recognized such a covenant when the employment is strictly "at-will." See Ware v. Converse County School Dist. No. 2, 789 P.2d 872, 875 (Wyo.1990); 1 McDonald v. Mobil Coal Producing, Page 1310 Inc., 789 P.2d 866, 869 (Wyo.1990); Nelson v. Crimson Enterprises, Inc., 777 P.2......
  • Wilder v. Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, No. 93-22
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 25, 1994
    ...788 P.2d at 1122. In my view, this court expanded that partial answer to a complete answer in Ware v. Converse County Sch. Dist. No. 2, 789 P.2d 872 (Wyo.1990), by holding that the implied covenant theory does not apply to a discharged school custodian who was an at-will employee of the sch......
  • Creel v. L & L, Inc., No. S–11–0138.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 14, 2012
    ...party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Franks, ¶ 9, 96 P.3d at 490;Ware v. Converse Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 2, 789 P.2d 872, 874 (Wyo.1990). A genuine issue of material fact is a fact which, if proven, “would have the effect of establishing or refuting an essential ......
  • Duart v. FMC Wyoming Corp., No. 93-CV-0349-J.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • August 5, 1994
    ...of Contracts § 90(1) (1981) in response to a claim for wrongful discharge of an employee. Ware v. Converse County School District No. 2, 789 P.2d 872, 875 (Wyo.1990). The Wyoming Court, relying upon this section of the Restatement, held an employee's expectation of employment could be alter......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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