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© 2018 Zuckerman Spaeder LLP

Showing 17 posts from October 2012.

A Note to Companies and High-Level Employees: How to Resurrect a Dispute That Was Dead and Buried

ZombieA recent decision from a federal court in Richmond should serve as a reminder to employers and employees that, even though they may think that they put a dispute behind them with a settlement agreement, in fact, the dispute can be resurrected like a zombie on Halloween.  At stake in the Richmond case is a $5,000 settlement payment and fairly serious allegations about sexual harassment by a supervisor at a car washing business.  However, the court’s ruling on basic principles of rescission of contract , could have relevance for the Vikram Pandits and Citigroups of the world. Read More ›

The Inbox

Our hurricane-proof edition of the latest in Suits by Suits news:

  • The last time you flew, was the toilet paper in the loo “exposed,” with an unfolded end square?  Then you weren’t on the jet of Abercrombie & Fitch boss Michael Jeffries.  The Associated Press writes that an age discrimination lawsuit by a former pilot has uncovered an exhaustive flight manual for members of the crew of Jeffries’ jet.  Among the requirements: current issues of magazines must always be on the right side of the credenza.  No hats if it’s over 40 degrees.  And the toilet paper folding, of course.
Read More ›

Dodd-Frank’s Shifting Definition of “Whistleblower”‎

In yesterday’s post, we promised to talk more about the potential conflict that defendants have identified in the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblowing provision, Section 922. 

As we’ve previously discussed, Section 922 changed whistleblower law in two important ways.  First, it created a bounty program, under which qualified whistleblowers can receive payments from the SEC for submitting information about violations of the securities laws.  In the first fourteen months of the program, the SEC has handed out the grand total of one award.

Second, Dodd-Frank enhanced the legal remedies for whistleblowers who are victims of retaliation, expanding the scope of prior protections found in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and creating new ones.

Employers, however, have identified a tension in Section 922 that they are seeking to use to defeat whistleblower retaliation claims.  Read More ›

Connecticut Federal Court Accepts Plaintiff’s, SEC’s Broad Reading of Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Law

The Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010, has been a hot issue on the campaign trail.  One provision of Dodd-Frank that hasn’t gotten a lot of play, politically speaking, is Section 922 – the law’s whistleblower protection provision.

But in the federal courts, Dodd-Frank whistleblower law is heating up.  We previously covered how a New York federal court allowed one such whistleblower’s claim to proceed.  Now, the District of Connecticut brings us the case of Kramer v. Trans-Lux Corp. Read More ›

Gone With the Wind Turbines

Wind Turbine Sunset The world’s largest wind turbine company, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, recently terminated its former CFO’s severance agreement after it discovered that he entered into unauthorized deals in India.  When Vestas announced its termination of its Henrik Noerremark’s severance agreement, it said that his unauthorized contracts cost the company about 18 million euros and that it is seeking to void the deals.  The company said it was also considering whether to bring claims against Noerremark.

What kinds of claims might Vestas pursue?  Read More ›

Suspension of Gallaudet University’s Chief Diversity Officer Raises Question: Can You Be ‎Fired For Your Political Views? Part 2 of 2‎

We wrote yesterday about Gallaudet University’s suspension of its Chief Diversity Officer, Angela McCaskill, for signing a petition to place Maryland’s law allowing same-sex marriage up for a public vote via referendum.  The action has been criticized, even drawing fire in an editorial in the Washington Post.  The McCaskill case raises this important question:   Can an executive be fired for political activity at work or outside of work?

The short answer: probably yes, but it depends a lot on the circumstances and the state law that would apply to any claim arising out of the dismissal.  This is another case where your mileage may vary, as they say.  Read More ›

Suspension of Gallaudet University’s Chief Diversity Officer Raises Question: Can You Be ‎Fired For Your Political Views? Part 1 of 2‎

Just to reaffirm what My Esteemed Colleague from Baltimore has already said (twice): we are still not a political blog.  We look at employment disputes, with a real focus on those involving a contract between an employer and an executive.  We keep our political views to ourselves (or at least out of the blog). 

But the problem is that many folks don’t keep their political views to themselves, either in or out of the workplace.  And that means disputes between companies and executives about political speech – whether it’s companies encouraging employees to vote for a certain candidate, or employees getting fired for their political views – are dominating the field of employment disputes between companies and high-level employees right about now.  Maybe it’s because we’re less than three weeks from the election.  Maybe it’s pent-up tensions in the workplace caused by economic stress. 

We don’t know why.  But we do know that here in Washington, coverage of a dispute between Gallaudet University and one of its executives, centered on the executive’s signature on a petition, has dominated the news.  Given that there is no more coverage of the Washington Nationals this season, the story is being followed avidly.  It draws into sharp relief an issue that comes up often this time of year: can you be fired for your political views? Read More ›

The Inbox

Can you get fired not for having an affair at work – but just because someone else thinks the boss has “personal feelings” for you?‎

Maybe.  A California case is testing the idea that you can get in trouble at work – or even fired – for having an affair even if you’re not having an affair.  Even if, in fact, you’re not actually doing anything that would make someone think you were having an affair.  Can you recover damages if you’re fired under these circumstances?  We’ll have to see, as explained below. 

Let’s start at the beginning.  It’s generally considered good career advice to keep your love life and your work life separate.   For their part, companies often encourage their employees to do so.  Others ask coworkers in relationships to sign “love contracts,” which may or may not mitigate the ultimate impact if the relationship goes awry. 

But sometimes, an executive can get into trouble even if her boss just suspects she’s having an affair with another boss.  How can this come about, you ask?  The answer is in a complaint filed earlier this month in California, entitled Alexander v. The Original Footwear Company Read More ›

The Inbox: October 12, 2012

It's been a busy week in suits by suits:

  • Good news, everyone!  With the NFL season in full swing -- and with an estimated 25-30 million of us playing fantasy football -- you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the New Hampshire Attorney General has declined to prosecute a former deputy county attorney who used his work email to talk about fantasy football.  A member of Americans for Progress had alleged that the emails constituted illegal gambling.  Now, who wants to trade me for a starting running back?
  • Multiple sources have discussed the potential conflicts of interest alleged against David Kotz, the former Inspector General of the SEC who, among other things, investigated Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.  The highest profile allegation is that Kotz had an "inappropriate relationship" -- the Huffington Post calls the e-mail exchange "flirtatious" -- with an SEC employee while Kotz's office was conducting oversight on a program on which that employee worked.
  • In continuing developments regarding the intersection of social media and employment law, the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that work-related Facebook updates are not protected speech under federal labor law.  The NLRB upheld a BMW dealership's decision to terminate a car salesman for posting a picture of a car accident (with the caption "Oops") to his Facebook account.  (The NLRB's press release can be found here.)
  • Relatedly, a Texas appeals court upheld the firing of a paramedic who had frustratedly posted to her personal Facebook page that she "wanted to slap" an uncooperative patient.  The paramedic had argued that her employer invaded her privacy and tortiously intruded upon her seclusion; the trial court granted summary judgment for lack of evidence and the appellate court affirmed.
  • Following a slightly more prudent course than the Republican Party of Florida, the Town Council for the city of Flower Mound, Texas voted to pay former Town Manager Harlan Jefferson the 22 months of severance pay -- approximately $350,000 -- called for in his contract after voting to dismiss Jefferson as Town Manager.
  • Suits by (fake) suits?  Sony sued its former pitchman, actor Jerry Lambert, who appeared in a series of commercials on behalf of Sony's Playstation 3 console as fake executive Kevin Butler (with titles such as "Vice President of Add More Awesome," "Vice President of Epic Gaming for All," "Vice President of Bringin' It in 3D," and nearly four dozen others).  Lambert later appeared in a Bridgestone tires ad playing a Nintendo Wii, prompting Sony to sue, alleging that Lambert was unfairly using its "Kevin Butler" intellectual property.  Those of us old enough to remember Larry "Bud" Melman's appearances on the old David Letterman show may recall that Letterman faced a similar issue when he tried to move that character (played by actor Calvert DeForest) to his new show on CBS.  (Letterman's workaround was to refer to DeForest as "That Guy" and "Kenny the Gardener.")
  • Oregon state labor officials have ordered Dr. Andrew W. Engel, D.D.S., to pay his dental assistant nearly $350,000 after threatening to fire her if she did not attend a Scientology-related training session.