Brown v. Outback Steakhouse
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: Dft's 30 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Joseph M. Hood on 2/11/2016. (STC)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CENTRAL DIVISION at LEXINGTON
Civil Case No.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon Defendant’s motion for
summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s remaining claim, which is for
breach of contract.
The motion has been fully briefed and the
Court, having considered the matter fully, will grant the motion
for the followings reasons.
During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was the owner and
operator of Alpha Cleaning Services (“Alpha”).
cleaning services at Defendant’s Outback Steakhouse Restaurants in
Fayette and Madison County, Kentucky, beginning in 1992 and ending
Plaintiff alleges that he and Defendant entered into
oral contracts whereby Alpha would provide cleaning services for
two of Defendant’s restaurants.1
On April 2, 2013, during a face-
to-face meeting and with confirmation through a letter that same
day, Outback notified Plaintiff that Alpha’s services were being
Plaintiff now alleges that Defendant wrongfully
terminated the oral contracts based on Plaintiff’s complaints of
Outback personnel’s discriminatory comments.2
contends, the contract was terminated without adequate notice and
without just cause and that, as a result, he has suffered economic
In his deposition, Brown testified that in 1992, he formed an
oral agreement with Keith Hayden to “clean the floors, clean the
department’s criteria” at one of the Outback Restaurants.
contract did not include a specific duration of time over which
the services would be performed.
per month for his services.
Outback agreed to pay him $1,600
He formed an identical agreement with
There were no other terms to the contracts.
Plaintiff testified that he also cleaned Defendant’s Hamburg Pavilion
restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, but there was no contract with respect to
this location, as he only cleaned it for a short period of time.
As explained in the Court’s Memorandum Opinion and Order of September 9, 2015,
Plaintiff’s civil rights claims failed as a matter of law because independent
contractors are not protected under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. See DE 26.
The standard for summary judgment mirrors the standard for a
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
A grant of summary judgment is proper “if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions
on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed. R. Civ. P.
The moving party bears the initial burden to show the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact.
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
Once that burden has been met, the
nonmoving party must “come forward with some probative evidence to
support its claim.”
1347 (6th Cir. 1994).
Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339,
A material fact is one that could affect
the outcome of the issue at trial, as determined by substantive
See Niemi v. NHK Spring Co., Ltd., 543 F.3d 294, 298 (6th
There is a genuine dispute as to a material fact if
the evidence shows that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
in favor of the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249;
Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 885 (6th Cir. 2004).
The judge’s function is not to weigh the evidence, but to
decide whether there are genuine issues that warrant a trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Multimedia 2000, Inc. v. Attard, 374
F.3d 377, 380 (6th Cir. 2004).
The evidence must be construed in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party when deciding
whether there is enough evidence to overcome a motion for summary
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Summers, 368 F.3d at 885.
As the Defendant points out succinctly in its Memorandum in
Support of Summary Judgment, as well as its Reply Brief, under
Kentucky law, if an employment contract fails to contemplate a
definite period of time, it may be terminated at will by either
See Brownsboro Road Rest. v. Jerrico, Inc., 674 S.W.2d 40
(Ky. Ct. App. 1984), see also Wyant v. SCM Corp., 692 S.W.2d 814
(Ky. Ct. App. 1985) (Employee’s at-will employment could be ended
at any time, despite contention that 17-year tenure imposed implied
duty of good-faith dealing upon employer).
In his deposition,
Plaintiff conceded that the oral contracts did not cover a definite
He relies Buchholtz v. Dugan, 977 S.W.2d 24, 27 (Ky.
Ct. App. 1998) to advance the proposition that an oral agreement
can modify an employee’s at-will status. While that is an accurate
statement of the law, Plaintiff has provided no evidence, oral or
otherwise, that would have affected his status as an at-will
In general, at-will employees may be terminated for any
reason not prohibited by law.
541 (Ky. 2008).
Comm’r v. Solly, 253 S.W.3d 537,
“[A]n employer may discharge an at-will employee
for good cause, for no cause, or for a cause that some might view
as morally reprehensible.”
Id. (quoting Wymer v. JH Properties,
Inc., 50 S.W. 195, 198 (Ky. 2001)).
Outback told Brown that his
services were being terminated for financial reasons.
Based on the foregoing, there is no genuine issue of material
fact with respect to Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim.
facts, according to Plaintiff, reveal that he was an at-will
employee who could have been terminated for any lawful reason.
summary judgment, [DE 30], is hereby GRANTED.
This the 11th day of February, 2016.
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