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Court upholds judgment in favor of Cedar Lake

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A fired employee’s claim that he had a constitutionally protected interest in his job with the Town of Cedar Lake and that he was entitled to due process before being fired failed on appeal.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment entered by the trial court for the town of Cedar Lake and town council. In his  complaint, Wynkoop asked the court to find the disciplinary procedure instituted against him for violating town code of conduct and the town’s policy and procedure manual violated his due process rights under the personnel policy.

He relied on language in the procedure manual to support his claim, but that manual continually said it is not a contract of employment and contained an at-will employment provision. The manual also outlined progressive disciplinary policies and an employee appeal provision.

After a hearing, the town administrator sent a letter informing Wynkoop he would be suspended and his position demoted; he refused to acknowledge the letter and was eventually fired.

In Doug Wynkoop v. The Town of Cedar Lake, Indiana, and the Town Council of the Town of Cedar Lake, Indiana, 45A05-1111-PL-602, Judges L. Mark Bailey and Paul Mathias ruled that under Indiana law, Wynkoop didn’t have a cognizable property right in his position and was an employee-at-will, regardless of any language in the manual.

Chief Judge Margret Robb concurred in result.

“In an at-will state such as Indiana, an employer is not obligated to furnish to its employees a statement of its employment policies,” she wrote. “Having made statements in writing about the terms and conditions of employment, however, it is fundamentally unfair to allow an employer to essentially declare those statements illusory and raise the ‘employment at will’ doctrine as a shield when it is called to task by an employee who can demonstrate detrimental reliance on the employer’s failure to abide by those terms and conditions.”

But, Wynkoop didn’t demonstrate detrimental reliance on the provisions of the manual, so she agreed that the trial court decision should be affirmed.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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