Thursday, June 28, 2012

Get Physical

We are told at a young age that violence is not the answer. Oddly enough, there is merit to our parent’s early teachings. A former employee of General Electric Lighting, LLC, Thomas Ford, brought a suit against General Electric Lighting, LLC on the basis of race discrimination and retaliation. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. On appeal the Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment. The incident that gave rise to the suit sprung from an altercation between Ford and another co-worker. Ford, an African American, was confronted by a white co-worker after having a disagreement on a prior date. The confrontation led to a physical altercation and both employees where later terminated. While Ford may have had some evidence to support his claims, General Electric Lighting, LLC had a policy against workplace violence. Both employees engaged in the physical altercation, thus both employees violated the employer’s policy against workplace violence. The employer is within its right to terminate an employment relationship for violations of policy.  
Generally, a state that recognizes employment at will both the employee and the employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time. However, it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee based on discrimination or retaliation. An employee must prove all the elements necessary for each cause of action to prevail. Visit the hyperlink below to identify what an employee must prove and why Ford was unable to prevail on neither his claim for race discrimination nor retaliation. Ford v. General Electric

An Alter Ego Might Not Always Be a Good Thing

The term alter ego has proven quite lucrative for Sasha Fierce, better known as Beyonce Knowles, however the Court’s use of the term “alter ego” has not proven as beneficial for Benjamin Enterprises, Inc (BEI). While some career driven individuals strive to be leaders, exemplifying all attributes of a true professional, others choose a much different path. In the corporate world, an employee’s conduct is often viewed as a reflection of the company for which they are employed. In the legal world, an employer may even be held liable for an employee’s actions. Recently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment imputing liability of a senior executive’s indiscretions on the employer under the alter ego doctrine. The former BEI employee, Martha Townsend, claimed that Hugh Benjamin, BEI’s corporate Vice President, had sexually harassed her for a number of years. Based on the facts, the Court found that alter ego liability applied and BEI was liable as Benjamin’s employer. You can view Townsend v. Benjamin Enterprises, Inc. by clicking the hyperlink.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Be Wary of Personal Use of Business e-mail

I routinely meet with employees who have been fired for improper use of an employer provided e-mail. I also routinely get employees contacting me via a work e-mail address/system seeking legal advice. This is a bad idea all the way around! School superintendent Nancy Sebring found this out the hard way.  See this article for more information about Ms. Sebring's...uh...lack of discretion!

Beauty Takes on the Beast

It may be true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but this Latin music singer isn’t being subtle about her appearance. Erika Bonilla, a former FBI agent in New Mexico, filed suit against the Department of Justice for alleged race and gender discrimination. She claims her former employer failed to adequately address the complaints she made in regards to repeated harassment from her coworkers. She is also claiming her coworkers were jealous of her appearance and professional singing career. Bonilla’s lawsuit includes allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The case caught the attention of the media receiving mixed reviews. At this time it appears that the FBI has declined to respond to statements made by Bonilla or her attorney, Monnica Garcia. Although Bonilla’s statements may carry great weight with the public, the Court will ultimately decide whether her allegations have merit in the eyes of the law.

ABC News Article

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Answers to Employment Law Questions

Please take a look the Answers page which is tabbed at the near the top of this blog.