Employers and Employees Relationship Cases In New Mexico
Employers and employees have considerable freedom to contractually define their relationship, including specifying the terms under which the employer-employee relationship can be terminated. See UJI 13-2302 NMRA 2001; 13-2303 NMRA 2001.
Where the parties have not addressed the issue of termination, courts will supply a default term permitting either party to terminate the relationship at any time, for any reason, without liability. Melnick v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 106 N.M. 726, 730, 749 P.2d 1105, 1109 (1988); Alan Farnsworth, Contracts 7.17 at 555-58 (2d ed. 1990) (characterizing termination at will as example of "omitted case" in which court supplies term for parties).
New Mexico adheres to the objective theory of contracts. Pope v. the Gap, Inc., 1998 NMCA 103, P13, 1998 NMCA 103, 125 N.M. 376, 961 P.2d 1283.
Notwithstanding its subjective intentions, an employer may be bound by its words or conduct that support a reasonable expectation on the part of employees that they will be dismissed only in accordance with specified procedures or for specified reasons. Kiedrowski v. Citizens Bank, 119 N.M. 572, 575, 893 P.2d 468, 471 (Ct. App. 1995).
Whether an employer's words and conduct support a reasonable expectation on the part of employees that they will be dismissed only in accordance with specified procedures or for specified reasons generally is a question of fact for the jury. UJI 13-2302 and UJI 13-2303.