plaintiff must first prove mistake. Kattelman v. Sabol, 425 Pa. 197, 228 A.2d 379 (1967). Plaintiff cannot use evidence barred by the parole evidence rule to prove the mistake necessary to allow admission of that evidence.
Plaintiff next claims that the employment agreement is unenforceable because there was no meeting of the minds on the terms of the written agreement. This argument is similar to plaintiff's mistake argument and is similarly unpersuasive. Again, the same parole evidence rule which plaintiff is seeking to avoid through his allegation of lack of intent to contract under the terms of the written agreement, bars consideration of testimony regarding the parties' intent prior to the time when the contract was executed. Kawecki Berylco Industries, Inc. v. Fansteel, 512 F. Supp. 984, 986 (E.D. Pa. 1981), order stayed in part 517 F. Supp. 539. Plaintiff is thus bound by the objective manifestation of his intent as plainly expressed in the written contract he executed.
Plaintiff's final argument, that the written agreement is unenforceable because it modified the parties' oral agreement without consideration, must be rejected. Since plaintiff has not proved the existence of a prior oral agreement, the written agreement cannot be deemed a modification. The lunch discussions upon which plaintiff bases his claim of an oral contract cannot be used to support plaintiff's position because of the parole evidence rule.
In sum, plaintiff cannot avoid the written employment agreement that he executed. There is no basis on the undisputed facts in the record upon which the Court could find fraud, duress, or mistake. The parole evidence rule thus preempts consideration of the negotiations plaintiff claims constitute an express oral contract. As discussed above, plaintiff's lack of consideration theory is without merit. Summary judgment on Count I shall therefore be entered in defendants' favor.
B. Wrongful Discharge
Count II of plaintiff's complaint avers that his termination amounted to a "wrongful discharge" under Pennsylvania law. For purposes of this claim plaintiff concedes, as he must, that he was an "at-will" employee, that is, one not hired for a specified term of employment. Pennsylvania law only recognizes actions for wrongful discharge when the employment relationship is at-will. Geary v. United States Steel Corp., 456 Pa. 171, 319 A.2d 174 (1974). This is apparently because terminated employees who are not at-will employees can pursue their claims under breach of contract theories.
The general rule regarding at-will employees is that absent a statutory or contractual provision to the contrary, the relationship may be terminated by either party at any time, for any reason, or for no reason. Bruffett v. Warner Communications, 692 F.2d 910 (3d Cir.1982); Beidler v. W.R. Grace, Inc., 461 F. Supp. 1013, 1014 (E.D. Pa. 1978), aff'd mem., 609 F.2d 500 (3d Cir. 1979); Cummings v. Kelling Nut Co., 368 Pa. 448, 84 A.2d 323 (1951). In the interest of public policy, Pennsylvania has carved out a narrow exception to this general rule. In Geary v. United States Steel Corp., supra, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania acknowledged that an employer could not discharge an at-will employee if the discharge would violate a "clear mandate of public policy." Id. at 184, 185, 319 A.2d at 180.
The Geary court declined to define the perimeters of such a public policy exception. Nonetheless, subsequent decisions have interpreted Geary to allow an employee a cause of action for wrongful discharge when important and well recognized facets of public policy are at stake and there is no available statutory remedy. E.g. Perks v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 611 F.2d 1363 (3d Cir. 1979) (employee discharge for refusal to take polygraph); Hunter v. Port Authority of Allegheny County, 277 Pa. Super. 4, 419 A.2d 631 (1980) (employee refused job because of a 13 year-old misdemeanor conviction for which employee had been pardoned); Reuther v. Fowler & Williams, Inc., 255 Pa. Super. 28, 386 A.2d 119 (1978) (employee discharged for serving jury duty); Jurewicz v. Master, 4 Phila. Co. 622 (1980) (employee discharged for testifying at criminal trial). Compare Rogers v. IBM Corp., 500 F. Supp. 867 (W.D. Pa. 1980) (employee discharged because of relationship with subordinate employee -- public policy not transgressed, no cause of action for wrongful discharge); Beidler v. W.R. Grace, Inc., supra, 461 F. Supp. 1013 (employee discharged after company failed to follow its own evaluation policies -- no public policy violation, no cause of action for wrongful discharge); Yaindl v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., 281 Pa. Super. 560, 422 A.2d 611 (1980) (employee discharged after criticizing safety of employer's product -- public policy not threatened, no cause of action for wrongful discharge).
In the present case plaintiff claims that defendants offended public policy by actively recruiting and then firing him, without giving him an opportunity to seek other employment. Although plaintiff has not expressly identified a specific aspect of public policy violated by defendants, the Court reads plaintiff's complaint as charging that defendants specifically intended to harm him by their actions. Allegations of specific intent to harm may support a claim for wrongful discharge. See Boresen v. Rohm & Haas, Inc., 526 F. Supp. 1230 (E.D. Pa. 1981). Plaintiff thus makes out a cognizable claim under this theory.
Having successfully alleged a cause of action, plaintiff is nonetheless unable to support it in the face of the present record. Even a liberal reading of the facts shows that there is no substance to plaintiff's allegation that he was discharged as a result of a specific intent to harm. Although plaintiff's discharge was unexpected, plaintiff was given a most generous opportunity to find another job. Plaintiff received over four months' notice and enjoyed full salary and benefits from defendant James following the conclusion of his job responsibilities. Additionally, defendants offered to provide potential employers with a good reference on plaintiff's behalf. These facts weigh in defendants' favor and preclude plaintiff from claiming specific intent to harm on the part of defendants. That word of plaintiff's discharge was on the street prior to his actual termination is, at best, only arguably unfair. As stated by the court in Borensen v. Rohm & Haas, Inc., supra, 526 F. Supp. at 1236, "arguably unfair conduct on the part of [the employer is] an insufficient showing under Pennsylvania law."
In short, plaintiff has failed to show that an important aspect of public policy was violated by his discharge. Plaintiff thus cannot recover under a wrongful discharge theory, and summary judgment on Count II of the complaint shall be entered in defendants' favor.
An appropriate Order will be entered.
AND NOW, TO WIT, this 16th day of February, 1983, IT IS ORDERED as follows:
1. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.
2. Judgment is entered in favor of defendants Fred S. James, P.A., Inc. and Richard Peterson on all counts of plaintiff's complaint.