Altering At-Will Employment In Texas? Good Luck.
All employment relationships in Texas are presumed to be at-will, meaning an employer can fire an employee with or without cause. There are of course, exceptions. Rebutting the presumption of at-will employment is an uphill battle.
In Cahak v. Rehab Care Group, Inc., a 2008 Waco Court of Appeals case, the Court affirmed a trial court’s granting of summary judgment on John Cahak’s claims against his former employer. Cahak was hired in 1997 by Rehab as a program director for one of its rehabilitation units After a poor performance review, Cahak was given two options: (1) continue employment with Rehab, “as needed”, and Rehab would assist with developing Cahak’s management skills; or (2) a six-week severance plan. The “as needed” basis placed no obligation on Rehab to provide Cahak with ongoing employment. Cahak was eventually fired by Rehab after he was caught working for another employer while he was supposedly injured.
Cahak claimed in his lawsuit that Rehab’s offer to continue his employment as long as he participated in a management development program altered his at-will status. The Court ruled that his fraud claim, based on alleged misrepresentations by Rehab of continued employment, failed because an at-will employee is barred from bringing a fraud claim against his former employer based upon its decision to discharge the employee.
To prove his negligent misrepresentation claim, Cahak had to establish Rehab misrepresented an existing fact rather than a promise of future conduct. Because the alleged promise made by Rehab of continued employment was a promise of future conduct, rather than statements of existing facts, the Court affirmed summary judgment on Cahak’s negligent misrepresentation claim.