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Employers can't go breaking their promises at will

October 01, 2004

Justice Judith McConnell, "an at-will employer does not have carte

blanche to lie to an employee about any matter whatsoever to trick

him or her into accepting employment." The Appellate Court decided

that Mr. Agosta could properly sue for "the loss of security and

income associated with his former employment."

This means that Mr. Agosta's lawsuit is alive and well. His

attorney thinks it will send a message to employers that an at-will


contract is not quite what it used to be. His hope is that this

ruling will lead employers to treat their employees more fairly.

I like this ruling. I don't like it when people are induced to

leave their jobs by promises that the person making the promises is

planning to take back. I don't think anyone would dispute the fact

that Mr. Agosta had a pretty good job with Clear Channel. He traded

his $150,000 salary for a salary half as great, but with the

managerial commission and the equity he had the opportunity to make a

whole lot more. Suddenly, once Mr. Agosta left Clear Channel and was

working for Mr. Astor, the rug was pulled out from under him. Mr.

Astor felt he held all the cards due to the at-will clause he

cleverly included in the agreement. It is nice to see that the

Appellate Court decided this was not how it should be.

Mr. Astor is considering taking this case to the Supreme Court of

the state of California; however, I would like to think if he does

so, he will lose again. You just can't take someone from his job and

then change the rules on him once he gets there. As Mr. Astor owns a

radio net- work, I assume he has been a successful businessman.

However, I am glad to see that the 4th District Court has given him

his comeuppance.

* CHARLES J. UNGER is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale

law firm of Flanagan, Unger & Grover, and a therapist at the Foothill

Centre for Personal and Family Growth. He writes a bimonthly column

on legal and psychological issues. He can be reached at or at 244-8694.

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