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Fired “Desperate Housewife” Loses Claim on Technicality

Nicollette Sheridan, who played the man-eating Edie Britt on Desperate Housewives, recently lost the wrongful termination case she filed after being let go from the hit television show. At issue was whether Sheridan was in fact “terminated,” a necessary element to any wrongful termination claim. Sheridan claimed she was terminated when show producers decided not to renew her contract in 2008. The producers, Touchstone Television, countered that she was not terminated because she was allowed to work through the end of her contract. The Court of Appeal sided with the show, holding that not renewing a fixed-term employment contract is not the same as terminating the contract during its term. The case highlights a little-known loophole in fixed-term employment contracts, which are generally thought to be more protective of employees than at-will employment relationships. Whereas at-will employees can almost always claim wrongful termination whenever they are fired, employees on fixed-term contracts can only do so if they are fired during the term of their contracts. They generally cannot claim wrongful termination if their contracts are simply allowed to expire.