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MacHado v. Teksystems, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 29, 2014

GUSTAVO MACHADO,
v.
TEKSYSTEMS, INC., SECTION

ORDER AND REASONS

JANE TRICHE MILAZZO, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's Partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Defendant's Motion is DENIED for the reasons stated below.

BACKGROUND

According to Plaintiff Gustavo Machado's Complaint, Defendant TEKsystems, Inc., an IT staffing and recruiting company, recruited him away from his job as an Exchange Engineer with Microsoft in Texas to work for its client, Ochsner Healthcare Foundation ("Ochsner"), in New Orleans. Plaintiff alleges that in doing so, TEKsystems guaranteed him that he would work as an employee of TEKsystems for the first five months and would thereafter become a permanent employee of Ochsner ("the Oral Contract"). In reliance on these representations, Plaintiff quit his job at Microsoft and moved his family to New Orleans. On Plaintiff's second day of work, the parties signed a written at-will, indefinite-term contract employing Plaintiff as an Exchange Engineer ("the Written Contract").[1] On that same day, however, a representative of TEKsystems wrote a letter acknowledging TEKsystem's commitment to employ Plaintiff for a term of five months ("the Letter").[2]

Instead of working as an Exchange Engineer as Defendant had promised both orally and in writing, Plaintiff began work at Ochsner in an Active Directory Role. Because he did not have the skill set to perform this job, Ochsner released Plaintiff after just four weeks of work. TEKsystems thereafter terminated Plaintiff's employment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant breached the employment contract by firing him prior to the five-month term and failing to pay him the amount remaining on the contract. In addition, he brings claims of detrimental reliance and negligent placement for Defendant's failure to place him in a job for which he was qualified. Defendant has filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on the grounds that Plaintiff has not asserted viable claims for (1) breach of contract; (2) detrimental reliance; (3) negligence in an employment setting; and (4) future wages.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(c) provides that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings, after pleadings are closed but early enough not to delay trial.[3] The standard for determining a Rule 12(c) motion is the same as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.[4] To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead enough facts "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."[5] A claim is "plausible on its face" when the pleaded facts allow the court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."[6] A court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and must "draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor."[7] The court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[8] To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a "sheer possibility" that the plaintiff's claims are true.[9] The complaint must contain enough factual allegations to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim.[10] If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that an insurmountable bar to relief exists and the plaintiff is not entitled to relief, the court must dismiss the claim.[11] The Court's review "is limited to the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint."[12]

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Defendant requests judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff's claims for (1) breach of contract; (2) detrimental reliance; (3) negligent placement; and (4) future wages. The Court will address each claim in turn.

A. Breach of Contract

There are two types of employment contracts under Louisiana law: a definite term contract and a terminable at-will contract.[13] It is true, as Defendant asserts, that in order to maintain an action for breach of an employment contract, the employment must have been for a fixed term.[14] Plaintiff alleges that in recruiting him for the job in New Orleans, Defendant entered into the Oral Contract with Plaintiff in which it agreed to employ him for a period of five months. Plaintiff alleges that by terminating him after just four weeks, Defendant breached the Oral Contract. Defendant argues that any oral statements were made prior to the signing of the Written Contract, and thus the writing, which expressly establishes at-will employment, is the final expression of the terms of their agreement.[15]

Considering the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the issue thus becomes whether the parties intended for the Written Contract to modify their previous Oral Contract.[16] Contracts can be modified by mutual consent of the parties only.[17] On its face, the Written Contract, which this Court considers because it was attached to Plaintiff's Complaint, [18] is ambiguous as to whether the parties intended the Written Contract to modify or supercede the prior Oral Contract. The Written Contract makes no mention of the Oral Contract, nor does it purport to be the sole agreement between the parties.

Accordingly, the Court must accept as true Plaintiff's allegations that the Written Contract did not modify the Oral Contract. Indeed, Plaintiff claims that on the same day that he signed the Written Contract, a representative of TEKsystems prepared the Letter, stating that Plaintiff would "be employed for 5 months with TEKsystems then transition to permanent employment to Ochsner."[19] In doing so, Plaintiff asserts that the parties did not intend to effect a modification. Accordingly, ...


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