Short-Term, At-Will Employee Had No Claim For Breach Of Contract

Liu v. Amway Corp., 347 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2003)

Xin Liu lost her job as a scientist in the Concentrate Development Department of the Nutrilite Division of Amway approximately 18 months after she was hired. Liu, who was on a leave of absence following her pregnancy, was informed that her position had been eliminated during a downsizing that followed a merger of her department and another. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court had erroneously granted summary judgment to Amway on Liu’s claims of violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and public policy. However, the Court affirmed summary judgment in Amway’s favor with respect to Liu’s claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing on the ground that she was a short-term employee whose employment was explicitly defined in writing as having been terminable at will. Additionally, the Ninth Circuit held that in any event there was good cause to terminate her employment since there was “no evidence in the record to suggest that Amway’s reduction in force was invalid.”