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BEYDA v. USAIR

October 31, 1988

KENNETH BEYDA, Plaintiff,
v.
USAIR, INC., EASTERN AIRLINES, and DEWEY DEWITT FOSTER, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment on all claims in this wrongful discharge/defamation suit. The parties have submitted briefs and supporting evidentiary materials.

 FACTS

 In May 1985, plaintiff was a navy pilot coming to the end of his enlistment when he began to seek work as a commercial pilot with various airlines. On May 23, 1985, plaintiff had his initial interview with USAir. After passing a physical and flight tests, he was hired. Plaintiff began work on June 5, 1985 with the rank of Reserve First Officer. After completing a one month training course, plaintiff served as a co-pilot on domestic passenger flights.

 One of the perks of such an airline job is the opportunity to ride free in the cockpit of any airline. This is a commonly referred to as jumpseat privileges. It is not a right, but is solely within the discretion of the flight captain.

 On October 15, 1985 in Atlanta, plaintiff sought jumpseat privileges on an Eastern Airlines flight. The captain, defendant Foster, refused. From here, the parties' versions of events diverge, but for the purpose of these motions we view the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff.

 Plaintiff did not dispute Captain Foster's right to refuse jumpseat privileges but he did ask gate personnel for the Captain's name. One of these employees told the Captain that plaintiff wanted his name. The Captain came off the plane and confronted plaintiff at the gate. By one witness account the Captain's conduct was "maniacal and deranged." On the other hand, defendants contend that plaintiff harassed gate personnel and disrupted boarding of the flight.

 Captain Foster submitted a report of the incident to his supervisor at Eastern. Eastern's management forwarded the report to USAir. After requesting and receiving plaintiff's version of events, USAir gave plaintiff the choice of resigning or being fired. Plaintiff resigned on November 1, 1985, about five months after his hiring.

 Plaintiff filed a 5-count complaint charging Eastern and Foster with intentional interference with plaintiff's employment contract and defamation, and charging USAir with wrongful discharge and defamation. Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment on all counts.

 DISCUSSION

 1) USAir - Implied Contract.

 In Pennsylvania employment is presumed to be at will. However, where an employee demonstrates that he has provided additional consideration other than the services for which he is hired, the law will infer that the parties intended that employment extend for a "reasonable period" rather than be terminable at will. Darlington v. General Electric, 350 Pa. Super. 183, 504 A.2d 306, 314 (1986). Additional consideration may be some benefit to the employer or detriment to the employee other than that inherent in performance of the job. Id.

 In the case at bar plaintiff identifies four items of additional consideration:

 
1) He gave up his position with the U. S. Navy;
 
2) He turned down a job offer from Eastern;
 
3) He moved his family to Pittsburgh;
 
4) He took a one month flight training course at USAir.

 We can quickly dispense with the last item. Flight training was a requirement of the job. It was not an additional benefit or detriment but was rather a part of plaintiff's services which the parties contracted for.

 As for plaintiff's relinquishing or foregoing other employment opportunities, we recognize that such acts may in appropriate circumstances constitute sufficient additional consideration to rebut the at-will presumption. Likewise the expense and personal hardship of relocating one's family may be additional consideration. See, Darlington, 504 A.2d at 315; Lucacher v. Kerson, 158 Pa. Super. 437, 45 A.2d 245 (1946). However, plaintiff's departure from the Navy appears to have been a foregone conclusion - plaintiff had not re-enlisted, he had applied for jobs with six airlines and had received a job offer from Eastern. ...


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