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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tortious Interference With Business Relations & At-Will Employees

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State law, may an at-will employee base a claim of tortious interference with business relations on the employee's termination of employment? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding). 

THE ELEMENTS

The elements of the tort of interference with business relations are as follows:
1. The existence of a valid contractual relationship or business expectancy;
2. Knowledge of the relationship or expectancy on the part of the interferor;
3. Intentional interference inducing or causing a breach or termination of the relationship or expectancy; and
4. Resultant damage to the party whose relationship or expectancy has been disrupted.
Scymanski v. Dufault, 80 Wn.2d 77, 82, 491 P.2d 1050 (Wash. 1971) (internal citations omitted).

THE AT-WILL EMPLOYEE

However, "generally, at-will employees do not have a business expectancy in continued employment." Woody v. Stapp, 146 Wn.App. 16, 24, 189 P.3d 807 (Wash.App. Div. 3 2008) (referencing Raymond v. Pac. Chem., 98 Wash.App. 739, 747, 992 P.2d 517 (1999) (at-will employment clearly limited an employee's expectation of job security), rev'd on other grounds, Brown v. Scott Paper Worldwide Co., 143 Wash.2d 349, 20 P.3d 921 (2001)) (emphasis added) (hyperlink added to original).

CONCLUSION

At-will employees pursuing a claim of tortious interference with business relations, based on the employee's termination of employment, will likely be unable to establish the first element -- the existence of a valid contractual relationship or business expectancy; and, consequently, such a claim will likely fail.


LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.

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