have relied upon promises made by defendant's agents that he would receive disability if he left active employment. After denial of his application for disability, plaintiff alleges the Company refused to allow him to resume active employment and forced him to retire, thereby terminating his employment. Plaintiff claims this conduct amounted to a wrongful discharge.
Presently in Pennsylvania an employee at will has no cause of action against an employer for wrongful discharge unless he proves the employer acted with the specific intent to cause harm or the act was contrary to public policy. O'Neill v. A.R.A. Services, Inc., 457 F. Supp. 182 (1978); Geary v. U.S. Steel Corp., 456 Pa. 171, 319 A.2d 174 (1974). In the present case the plaintiff acknowledged at trial that he was employed under a written contract (Ex. D. 29) which did not set forth any specific term of employment. Under the law of Pennsylvania such an employee is deemed to be an employee at will. Karr v. Township of Lower Merion, 582 F. Supp. 410 (E.D. Pa. 1983); Bruffett v. Warner Communications, Inc., 692 F.2d 910 (3d Cir. 1982).
The Court concludes, based on the evidence produced at trial, that plaintiff was in fact never discharged from employment with the defendant. To the contrary, defendant acquiesced to plaintiff's original intentions, as stated in his letter to Rhodes, dated November, 1979, to take early retirement if disability was not approved. Even if the Court were to conclude that defendant's action taken as a whole constituted a discharge of plaintiff, plaintiff would have to prove that defendant acted in bad faith and against public policy in order to prevail. O'Neill, supra; Geary, supra.
Plaintiff claims the methods used by defendant, promising disability and dictating a letter, later used to keep plaintiff from active employment, were against public policy. However, as stated above, the Court finds that neither the defendant nor any representative thereof made promises to plaintiff or acted with the specific intent to cause plaintiff harm.
In addition, testimony was presented which showed that defendant was dissatisfied with plaintiff's performance and, therefore, had sufficient grounds to discharge him. Plaintiff stated at trial that he was aware that he could be discharged if his performance was unsatisfactory. Pennsylvania courts adhere to the subjective standard in deciding whether an employee had performed to the satisfaction of his employer. Kramer v. Philadelphia Leather Goods Corp., 364 Pa. 531, 73 A.2d 385 (1950). Therefore, defendant would have had sufficient grounds to discharge plaintiff if it so desired.
The Court does not accept plaintiff's argument that the decision in Paul v. Lankenau Hospital, 114 Montg. Co. L.R. 3 (1984), is similar to the present case and should be followed. In that case, plaintiff, acting on representations of his supervisor, removed equipment from the hospital and was terminated for doing so. The court held that the hospital was equitably estopped from arguing that the plaintiff was an employee at will, and, therefore, had no right to continued employment. In the present situation this Court has found that the representations made by defendant were made in reliance on plaintiff's statements concerning his health. Therefore, defendant's statements were not in bad faith and Paul v. Lankenau, supra, is inapplicable.
Further, the mere fact that termination is likely to cause some financial harm to plaintiff does not give rise to the required specific intent to support a cause of action for wrongful discharge. Keddie v. Pa. State University, 412 F. Supp. 1264 (M.D. Pa. 1976).
The Court concludes that plaintiff did not prove (1) that he was wrongfully discharged or (2) that he had a right to continued employment. Therefore, he is not entitled to compensatory damages in the nature of lost wages. In light of the foregoing, the Court denies defendant's motion for involuntary dismissal.
This Court has jurisdiction. It is not questioned by either party. The above shall constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law as found and entered by the Court. An appropriate order shall be entered.
AND NOW, this 26th day of April, 1985, IT IS ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff.