Summary Judgment Obtained in Employment Breach of Contract Case

Kendrick v. City of East Point, Georgia

April 7, 2014
Superior Court of Fulton County

Ron Polly, Matt Boyd, and Will Ellis obtained summary judgment in a breach of contract and unlawful acts/ultra vires case for the City of East Point. Plaintiff, a former Fire Lieutenant-EMT, was laid off in June 2008 as a part of an unprecedented reduction-in-force. The City’s layoff ordinance required employees to be laid-off in reverse order, on the basis of length of service in their job title. Plaintiff claimed his layoff was unlawful under the City’s layoff ordinance because two Fire Lieutenant-Paramedics, who were less senior in the Fire Lieutenant rank, were retained. Plaintiff sought relief in the form of breach of contract damages, back wages, and declaratory relief.

This case turned on the interpretation of the City’s Personnel Code and layoff ordinance.  The City argued that the concept of rank – which is a peculiarity of the City's Fire and Police Departments – had no specific bearing on the application of the layoff ordinance, except to the extent that there were specific job titles within a rank.  Thus, Plaintiff was properly discharged because he held a different job title (Fire Lieutenant-EMT) than the less senior Fire Lieutenant-Paramedics that were retained.  The City also argued that Plaintiff had no claim for breach of contract or unlawful acts/ultra vires because he was an at-will employee.

The Plaintiff disagreed and contended that there was only one job-title, Fire Lieutenant.  He argued that his contention was supported by the fact that there was only one job description for Fire Lieutenant and that all Fire Lieutenant had the same level of authority.  He also argued that he could recover breach of contract damages, loss wages, and/or injunctive relief because the City’s Civil Service System required that he only be fired for cause or in strict compliance with the City’s layoff ordinance.

On April 7, 2014, Fulton County Superior Judge Cynthia Wright rejected Plaintiff’s claims and granted the City’s Motion for Summary Judgment in full, finding the City lawfully terminated Plaintiff.  The Court also found that Plaintiff was an at-will employee.

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