The Inbox - January 18, 2013
This week in suits by suits, with a tip of the hat to some of our fellow bloggers:
- Eric Meyer's excellent labor & employment law blog, The Employer Handbook, reports on Jennifer O'Brien, a New Jersey public school teacher who was fired for posting comments on Facebook about her first-graders (ages 6 and 7) such as "I'm not a teacher -- I'm a warden for future criminals!" Recently, a New Jersey appellate court upheld Ms. O'Brien's firing, ruling that her opinions were not entitled to First Amendment protection because she was not commenting on "a matter of genuine public concern." Slip Op. at 10-11.
- Another good read is the Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog. This week they have an excellent in-depth article discussing the dispute between Chicago-based insurance brokerage Aon and a California-based competitor, Alliant Insurance Services, Inc., which allegedly raided several top executives from Aon. In addition to fascinating questions regarding the scope of covenants not to compete (which TS&N blogger David Clark describes as "epic"), the dispute also touches on forum-shopping in light of California's tough new law that essentially prohibits covenants not to compete. On January 10, 2013, a New York appellate court refused to dismiss a New York complaint in favor of a previously-filed California complaint, even though such dismissals are usually routine. (New York has no such law.) We'll be watching as these cases develop, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Nitro-Lift Technologies, LLC v. Howard, 568 U.S. 500 (2012), which struck down an Oklahoma statute limiting the enforceability of covenants not to compete.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit issued its ruling in Young v. UPS, holding that neither the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., nor the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k) required United Parcel Service to provide pregnant workers (such as the plaintiff, Peggy Young) with light-duty work comparable to the accommodations UPS made for other employees. For the other side of the argument, check out the amicus briefs filed by the ACLU as well as the Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund.
- Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in the case of a TSA Air Marshall who had been dismissed for allegedly disclosing "sensitive" information on a website (under the screen name "INTHEAIRCOP"); we'll let you know when the Court issues its ruling.
- Continuing our possibly risky forays into the world of religion, the Rev. Stephen H. Cobb has sued Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA, alleging that the church fraudulently misrepresented the state of the church's financial health, staff, and parishioners in hiring him away from a New Jersey church in 2009.
- Microprocessor manufacturer American Micro Devices (AMD) sued four former employees in federal court, alleging that the ex-employees copied more than 100,000 confidential documents and trade secrets before leaving for rival chipmaker Nvidia. Yesterday, the Court issued a temporary restraining order requiring the defendants to preserve all copies of AMD materials, to refrain from disclosing any such information, and prohibiting the hire of any AMD employees.
- Guy Johnson sued his former employer, Nordstrom, alleging he was wrongfully terminated after he refused to contribute $250 to the United Way because, in his words, the United Way "supports anti-gay groups such as the Boy Scouts."
- Kelle Azzopardi sued her former employer, Armani, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated after complaining about sexual harrassment by one of Armani's senior vice presidents, Laura Giulini, to human resources.
- And, in the world of suits by fake suits: you may recall when we directed your attention to Sony's lawsuit against its former pitchman, actor Jerry Lambert (who appeared as the character "Kevin Butler," a.k.a Sony's Vice President of Add More Awesome). The parties have now settled, with Lambert agreeing to a two-year moratorium on appearances in ads that feature or mention "any other video game or computer entertainment system or video game company," followed by another two-year period in which Sony will have the right to pre-evaluate any ads in which Lambert appears that also feature video or computer games.