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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

RULING AND ORDER

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.

I. Facts

  Plaintiff worked as a manager for Home Depot from January 1995 to July 1999. Throughout those years, Home Depot assured employees Page 2 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.

 II. Discussion

  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 Page 3 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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