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Grant v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 5, 2017

KEVIN GRANT, Plaintiff,



         On June 16, 2015, Plaintiff Kevin Grant ("Grant") sued his former employer, Target Corporation ("Target") in state court, alleging that Target wrongfully terminated his employment in April 2015. In July 2015, Target removed the case to federal district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. [ECF No. 1]. Presently before this Court is Target's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 34]. For the reasons set forth below, Target's motion is GRANTED.


         Grant initially filed his complaint in Essex County Superior Court, seeking damages for breach of contract (Count I), violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), wrongful termination in violation of public policy (Count III), misrepresentation (Count IV), and defamation (Count V). [ECF No. 8]. On July 28, 2015, after removing the case, Target filed a motion to dismiss all counts for failure to state a claim. [ECF Nos. 1, 6]. On September 3, 2015, this Court dismissed Counts II, III, and IV with prejudice, and dismissed Count V without prejudice. [ECF No. 15]. On September 23, 2015, Grant amended his complaint to state two claims: breach of contract (Count I) and defamation (Count II). [ECF No. 17]. Grant now voluntarily agrees to dismiss his defamation claim (Count II). [ECF No. 39 at 1 n.l]. Accordingly, the Court will only address Target's summary judgment motion with respect to the breach of contract claim (Count I).


         The following facts are drawn from the statements of undisputed material facts and responses [ECF Nos. 36, 40, 44], unless otherwise noted. SeeD. Mass., Local Rule 56.1. Where the facts are disputed, the Court views the record in the light most favorable to Grant, the non-moving party. See Mariasch v. Gillette Co.. 521 F.3d 68, 70 (1st Cir. 2008).

         From November 2014 to April 28, 2015, Grant was employed by Target as a "Store Team Leader, " which is the highest level of management at a Target store. Target is an at-will employer, but Grant claims that he did not understand the significance of being an "employee at-will." [ECF No. 40 ¶ 2].

         A. "Counseling & Corrective Action" Policy[1]

         Target has a "Counseling & Corrective Action" policy ("the Policy") available to Human Resources and Management personnel that provides guidelines[2] for disciplinary or corrective action for team members with performance issues. Grant did not sign the Policy, manifest assent to its provisions as a condition of his employment, or negotiate over its terms. [ECF No. 40 ¶ 15]. Grant first saw the Policy after he was hired, during his training. Id. It explicitly and immediately states in the opening section, under the caption "POLICY:"

This policy establishes broad guidelines designed to achieve fair and equitable treatment for all team members. It does not, either by itself or in conjunction with any other company documents, policy, practice, procedure or verbal statement, create an employment contract, express or implied, or define the employment relationship or limit how that relationship may end. Team members are employed at will, meaning they or the company can end the employment relationship anytime, for any reason. This policy does not alter the at will status of any team member. . . .
As a guideline, this policy is not all-inclusive. Rather, it is intended to outline unacceptable team member conduct during employment and establish recommended procedures for dealing with team member conduct or work performance that does not meet Company standards. This policy may change from time to time as business needs dictate with or without advance notice to those affected, and Target Corporation reserves the right to depart from these guidelines when it is deemed appropriate.

[ECF No. 40 ¶ 16]; [ECF No. 36-13] (emphasis in original). The Policy further states that the "Corrective Action Guidelines Summary is intended as a reference tool, and not as an all-inclusive list of infractions." Id. ¶ 18. It specifies, for example, that one form of "Gross Misconduct" is "Detrimental Behavior, " and the listing suggests that the typical response is termination. The Policy states throughout that these are "guidelines" and "recommended procedures, " and are not all-inclusive. See, e.g., [ECF No. 36-13 at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 19, 20].

         B. Grant's Termination

         In March 2015, Grant was temporarily designated the Store Team Leader of the Target store in Haverhill, Massachusetts. [ECF No. 40 ¶ 20]. He oversaw three levels of employees: executive team leaders ("ETL"), team leaders, and team members. Id. ¶ 22. Grant had four ETLs reporting directly to him, one of whom was the ETL of Human Resources. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 22-23. During his time as Store Team Leader, Grant reported directly to ...

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