Dance Teacher Stated Claim For Breach of Contract Following Termination For Allegedly False Accusations of Sexual Harassment

In Williams v. Rhythm of Life Corp., No. 652707/2020, 2021 WL 143487, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 30139(U) (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Jan. 14, 2021), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim arising from his alleged wrongful termination.

In sum, in this case plaintiff asserts “that the defendant wrongfully terminated his employment as a dance instructor based on false accusations that he sexually harassed female coworkers at one of his prior jobs, and failed fully to investigate the claims of misconduct made against him, but nonetheless published a statement on an internet web page that it was fully investigating the charges of sexual harassment.”

As to plaintiff’s claim of breach of contract, the court explained:

The elements of a cause of action to recover for breach of contract are the “formation of a contract between the parties, performance by the plaintiff, the defendant’s failure to perform, and resulting damage” (Flomenbaum v New York Univ., 71 AD3d 80, 91 [1st Dept 2009]). In the first cause of action, the plaintiff adequately alleged that he entered into an oral contract with **3 the defendant to teach dance classes for a period of five months, that the defendant failed to perform its obligations under the agreement by terminating his employment after less than five months, that it lacked cause to terminate his employment because the allegations of sexual harassment against him were false, and that he lost income when the defendant failed to pay him for the entire five-month term of the agreement.

General Obligations Law § 5-701(a)(1) provides that, if an agreement by its terms is not to be performed within one year, it is void unless it is evidenced by a writing or writings. Here, the complaint alleges that the oral agreement was to be performed within five months and, thus, less than one year. Consequently, to state a cause of action to recover for breach of contract, the complaint in this action need not allege that the employment agreement was in writing (see Caeners v Huntington Crescent Club, 223 AD2d 570, 571 [2d Dept 1996]). Moreover, since the plaintiff asserts that the employment agreement was meant to cover a defined period of time, he has alleged facts sufficient to establish that he was not an at-will employee whose employment could be terminated for any reason or no reason at all (see Nausch v AON Corp., 2 AD3d 101, 101-102 [1st Dept 2003]).

However, the court held that plaintiff could not recover for mental anguish, emotional distress, or consequential damages (such as future lost wages) in connection with this claim.

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