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HOLT v. HOME DEPOT
January 22, 2004.
BRUCE HOLT, Plaintiff; HOME DEPOT, U.S.A., INC. and MELANIE GRAY, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT CHATIGNY, District Judge
This case is before the court after a trial at which the jury was asked
to decide, in essence, whether plaintiff's employment with defendant Home
Depot, U.S.A., Inc. was terminated because he undertook to use the
company's open-door procedure to complain to higher-ups about his
immediate supervisor, defendant Melanie Gray, in reasonable reliance on
the company's promise that employees could use the procedure without fear
of retaliation. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him
$467,000 in compensatory damages. Defendants have moved for judgment as a
matter of law, a new trial, or an order of remittitur. The stringent
standards that apply to requests for such relief are not satisfied.
Accordingly, the motion is denied in its entirety.
Plaintiff worked as a manager for Home Depot from January 1995 to July
1999. Throughout those years, Home Depot assured employees
through statements in the employee handbook and other means of
communication that if they took advantage of the company's open-door
procedure to complain to management about their supervisors, they would
not be penalized. In March 1999, Home Depot moved plaintiff and his
family to Connecticut so he could manage a new distribution center in
Bloomfield. Soon after he started there, he began to have difficulties
and disagreements with his immediate supervisor, Ms. Gray. In June, he
contacted a senior manager, Brian Bender, regarding his problems with
her. On July 3, he called Home Depot's Impact Line to ask that forms be
sent to him so he could make a formal complaint. On July 9, two senior
Home Depot managers, Drex Crowell and Herb Miller, went to the Bloomfield
center accompanied by Gray and terminated the plaintiff's employment.
A. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law
The issue presented by defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of
law is whether a reasonable person, viewing the evidence presented at
trial fully and most favorably to the plaintiff, could find in his favor
on a claim of promissory estoppel.
The jury was correctly charged that plaintiff could not prevail on this
claim unless he proved the following: (1) Home Depot made a clear,
definite promise that it would not retaliate against employees for using
its internal complaint procedure; (2) Home Depot reasonably
should have expected the plaintiff to rely on the promise; (3) he
did reasonably rely on it; (4) his employment with Home ...
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