Barwin v. Village of Oak Park, No. 21-2007 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Oak Park hired Barwin as its village manager in 2006, as an at-will employee. He had previously worked as a city manager in Michigan. Barwin resigned under threat of termination 30 months before his pension rights vested. Barwin alleged that Oak Park breached its contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing by forcing him out of his job to prevent his pension from vesting and by refusing to honor its practice of allowing senior employees to purchase out-of-state pension credits to meet the vesting threshold.
The district court rejected Barwin’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Barwin has no plausible contract claim for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing based on an expectation that the Village would not fire him or force him to resign to prevent him from reaching retirement eligibility. As an at-will employee, Barwin had no enforceable expectation that he would remain employed long enough to meet the vesting threshold. The district court erred in entering summary judgment on the claim that Oak Park breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing by not allowing Barwin to purchase out-of-state pension credits as it had historically done with other employees. His employment contract entitled him to the same benefits that other senior employees enjoyed “by practice.” A finder of fact could reasonably conclude that the Village had a practice of allowing such employees to purchase out-of-state pension credits.