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H&R Block Eastern Tax Services, Inc. v. Denise Zarilla

April 11, 2013

H&R BLOCK EASTERN TAX SERVICES, INC.
v.
DENISE ZARILLA, AND GARDENER'S TAX AND FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC. APPEAL OF: DENISE ZARILLA



Appeal from the Order dated June 30, 2011, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County, Civil Division, at No(s): 40068 of 2003, C.A.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Strassburger, J.:

J. A35037/12

BEFORE: PANELLA, ALLEN, and STRASSBURGER,*fn1 JJ.

OPINION BY STRASSBURGER, J.:

Appellant, Denise Zarilla, appeals from the June 30, 2011 order granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee H&R Block Eastern Tax Services, Inc. (H&R Block). We affirm.

The trial court offered a summary of the underlying facts.

[Appellant] worked for H&R Block in various capacities from January of 1982 until her termination on March 13, 2002. Starting with the 1999 tax season, she was employed as a seasonal taX preparer. H&R Block employed seasonal tax preparers annually for a period beginning shortly before the tax season and ending shortly after it. After the term of employment ended, former seasonal tax preparers were required to re-apply for the position before the next tax season. Seasonal tax preparers were also required to sign certain documents, including a Tax Professional Employment Agreement, each year as a condition of employment.

On December 4, 2001, in preparation for the upcoming tax season, [Appellant] signed a Tax Professional Employment Agreement (hereinafter, the "Agreement"), as well as a code of conduct, an anti-discrimination policy, a security policy, a Field Seasonal Associate Handbook (hereinafter, the "Handbook"), and an Addendum for Individual Retirement Account Services and Modification of Employment Agreement (hereinafter, the "Addendum"). The Agreement outlined, among other things, the duties, hours, term of employment, and compensation of tax preparers as well as H&R Block's right to terminate employees for cause. The Addendum required employees to advise clients of individual retirement account options and to provide service to establish such accounts. The handbook elaborated on the overtime policy.

On March 13, 2002, approximately three months after signing the Agreement and one month before the end of that term of employment, H&R Block fired [Appellant]. The stated reasons for the termination were that [Appellant] worked excessive and unauthorized overtime, that she was in possession of confidential client information outside of the office, that she refused to uniformly offer IRAs to certain clients, and that she failed to act in a professional manner in the workplace. As a result of the termination, [Appellant] was not paid any of the additional compensation provided for in section 8 of the Agreement.

Shortly after being terminated, [Appellant] secured a position with Gardener's Tax and Financial Services, Inc., a competitor of H&R Block's. Viewing this as a violation of the non- competition, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure provisions of the Agreement, H&R Block initiated a civil action against [Appellant] and Gardner's Tax and Financial Services, Inc. On October 1, 2003, this Court entered an Order granting H&R Block's Motion for Preliminary Injunction with respect to the non- solicitation and non-disclosure provisions of the Agreement and denying the Motion with respect to the non-competition provision. On appeal, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the decision to grant the injunction and remanded for further proceedings. [See H&R Block Eastern Tax Services, Inc., v. Zarilla, 894 A.2d 827 (Pa. Super. 2005) (unpublished memorandum).] H&R Block later discontinued this portion of the lawsuit on August 20, 2009.

On January 26, 2004, [Appellant] filed a counterclaim against H&R Block, alleging breach of contract, violation of the Wage Payment and Collection Law, wrongful firing, and loss of consortium. Following discovery, H&R Block filed [its] Motion for Summary Judgment on August 31, 2010. The parties exchanged briefs, and, on March 28, 2011, [the trial court] heard argument on H&R Block's Motion.

Trial Court Opinion, 6/30/2011, at 2-3.

On June 30, 2011, the trial court issued an order and opinion granting H&R Block's motion for summary judgment as to all of Appellant's claims. This appeal followed. Both Appellant and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

We address an appeal from an order granting summary judgment mindful of the following.

Our scope of review of an order granting summary judgment is plenary. [W]e apply the same standard as the trial court, reviewing all the evidence of record to determine whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact. We view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party. Only where there is no genuine issue as to any material ...


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