NORMA I. CRUZ v. VISUAL PERCEPTIONS, LLC, et al., SC 19015
Judicial District of Hartford
Employment; Contracts; Whether the Parties Entered into a Contract of Employment for a Definite Term; Whether the Defendants Improperly Terminated the Plaintiff’s Employment Without Good Cause. In 2006, the defendant, Visual Perceptions, LLC (Visual), hired the plaintiff to work as a laboratory manager. On March 1, 2007, the plaintiff and Visual’s principal, Robert W. Aube, Jr., signed a document, which included the terms of the plaintiff’s employment and stated that “[t]his will cover the 36 month period starting April 1, 2007 and ending March 31, 2010.” In 2008, Aube terminated the plaintiff’s employment. Thereafter, the plaintiff brought this action, claiming that the March 1, 2007 document constituted an employment contract for a fixed term of thirty-six months and that Visual and Aube (collectively, the defendants) breached that contract when they terminated her employment in 2008. The trial court found that the March 1, 2007 document constituted a contract of employment for a definite term and that the defendants violated the contract when they terminated the plaintiff’s employment without good cause. On appeal, the defendants argued that the trial court improperly determined that the March 1, 2007 document was a guaranteed employment contract for a definite term that could only be terminated for good cause. The Appellate Court (136 Conn. App. 330) disagreed, finding that the plain language of the document unambiguously demonstrated that the parties intended to create a contract for a definite duration of thirty-six months. It reasoned that, in addition to stating that it covered a thirty-six month period, the document specifically identified the number of personal days that the plaintiff would receive during the term of the agreement, and it further provided that any increase in the plaintiff’s health insurance premiums would be absorbed by Visual “for the duration of the contract.” In light of its determination that the language of the document was unambiguous, the Appellate Court found it unnecessary to consider the testimony of Aube, in which he stated that he did not intend to create a guaranteed term of employment. It further opined that because the March 1, 2007 document constituted an employment contract for a definite term, it could only be terminated for good cause even though it did not contain a good cause provision. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court’s conclusions were correct.