The Inbox – Spin It Your Way

| O'Neill, Ashley

""

It is the norm for high-achieving employees to strive for and tout their successes. Recently, however, one person’s novel reaction to failure—his own termination—may show a future employer as much about his character as any of his considerable accomplishments.

Sree Sreenivasan was plucked from Columbia’s School of Journalism a few years ago to become the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s chief digital officer. According to Quartz, Mr. Sreenivasan brought the famed museum into the digital age through inventive social outreach efforts and a revamped, mobile-friendly website.

But when budget cuts forced the Met to announce the end of his employment recently, Mr. Sreenivasan decided to react to the disappointing news with a social outreach campaign of his own. He used his personal Facebook page as a forum to share the news and solicit advice from friends about his next move.

While he did not yet know where he might land next, he now had time for meetings and conversations over “meaningful cups of coffee and drinks.” Friends and acquaintances have more than taken him up on his offer since his post.

June 30 marked Mr. Sreenivasan’s last day at the Met. While losing a job might naturally deal a blow to one’s ego, Mr. Sreenivasan’s unnatural response—broadcasting his job loss and inviting feedback about it—has struck a positive chord.

As he put it, “Everything I’ve gotten has come from being completely open and sharing everything I know ... Let me be open and free. See what happens. Let the universe help.”

In more contentious employment news, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently defeated an employer’s attempt to shorten the time allowed for an aggrieved employee to bring a discrimination claim.

The underlying case involved an employee who was terminated two days after he returned to work following a medical leave of absence. The employee, Sergio Rodriguez, claimed that the Raymours Furniture Company targeted him as part of their “reduction in force” because of his injury.

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination provides a two-year statute of limitations for claims based on “actual or perceived disability.” However, Mr. Rodriguez’s initial employment application specified that any claim against the furniture company must be brought within 6 months of the adverse employment action. Mr. Rodriguez brought his claim 7 months after he was discharged.

The lower courts sided with his former employer, finding that Mr. Rodriguez contractually waived his statutory rights by signing and submitting his original employment application.

The Supreme Court, however, focused on the special public interests served by New Jersey’s antidiscrimination statute and concluded that the public interest served by the law extends to private transactions. Although people have a broad right to contract, private agreements that shorten the time allowed to bring discrimination claims would upset the statutory scheme and subvert the powerful goals of the statute.

As the Court put it: “Responsible employers are partners in the public interest work of eradicating discrimination, but such responsible behavior takes time. A shortened time frame for instituting legal action or losing that ability hampers enforcement of the public interest."