According to the minutes, [Relator] stated that he knew his employment contract was at will, that no cause for termination need be stated, and that he wanted to act in the best interests of the school.(Ellis vs. BlueSky, 2010). The members voted for Relators immediate termination, after a failed motion by one member to place Relator on a paid leave. After the meeting, Relator wrote to the board secretary denying that he had stated he knew his employment could be terminated without cause. Relator argues that, under his contract, because his contract was terminated after April 15, 2009, respondent was obligated to employ him for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year and through the 2009-10 school year. He seeks damages for pay he was owed as of May 2009 and thereafter through the school year ending in 2010. He also seeks future damages for lost benefits and diminution in value of retirement benefits, as well as severance pay and other amounts associated with termination (Miller & Jentz, 2012).
Issue: Relator challenges his termination by writ of certiorari, claiming that respondent violated the contract and statutory requirements, and that respondent owes him certain amounts for the breach and other payments (Ellis vs. BlueSky, 2010). Decision: CRIPPEN, Judge: Challenging his termination as director of respondent BlueSky Charter School, Relator, Thomas Ellis argues that the termination breached his contract with respondent. Because the contract unambiguously established Relators position as at-will employment, we affirm (Miller & Jentz, 2012). HALBROOKS, Judge (dissenting): I respectfully dissent because I find this agreement to be ambiguous.
The agreement would be clear but for the addition of the words at will, and I do not think their addition to an agreement can override the internal contradiction the words create. The resulting terms are inherently in conflict and susceptible to reasonable disagreement about what the parties intended. In particular, I do not believe that an employee who signs an agreement with an automatic renewal clause reasonably intends to acquiesce in termination at will (Ellis vs. BlueSky, 2010). Reason: Even with a complete record of extrinsic evidence about the agreement, it would be difficult to discern what the at will clause was intended to mean.
The most we have in this record is the statement that the board attributes to Ellis in its meeting minutes. Ellis, however, denies having acknowledged that his employment was at will. At the very least, I would remand to the board to create a complete record on the meaning of the agreements terms and the parties intent. See Dokmo v. Indep. School Dist. No. 11,459 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Minnesota, 1990) (stating that school board has obligation to make a sufficient record to prove its actions were justified.). Alternatively, I would apply the well-established rule that ambiguity is to be construed against the drafter (as cited in Ellis vs. BlueSky, 2010)..
Ellis v. bluesky charter school. (2010, Apri). Retrieved from http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?page=4&xmldoc=In MNCO 20100420259.xml&docbase=CsLwAr3-2007-Curr&SizeDisp=7 Miller, R., & Jentz, G. (2012). Business law today. (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.