Sexual discrimination claims continue to be big news in the world of suits by suits. We’ve previously commented at some length regarding the novel issues raised in the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former Kleiner Perkins partner Ellen Pao.
Today, we turn to a related and equally unique issue: a sexual orientation claim brought under the auspices of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq. Although there is no federal statute that protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation generally, Brian Anthony Martinez, the former international managing director of television for Bloomberg Media, brought a lawsuit against his former employer in 2011, alleging that he was terminated after Bloomberg discovered that he had undergone therapy for domestic abuse from his male partner, thus (arguably) bringing his claims under the ADA.
The latest gold medalists in the race for our attention:
We’ve written before about the sexual harassment suit between the Kleiner Perkins venture capital firm and its former partner, Ellen Pao. Developments at the end of last week point out another reason to follow this case, however (and the great Leonard Cohen is only part of the story).
This week in suits by suits and other related items of interest:
On Monday, I reviewed the basic contours of a wrongful termination claim. I pointed out that, under state common law, you may have a wrongful termination claim against an employer if you were fired in violation of public policy, but that states vary on what public policy means in this context.
On this blog, we often see basic practices employers and employees should follow to minimize employment disputes. For example, employers: don’t talk about religion on job interviews. Employees: try not to curse too much at work, watch what you say on social media, and read what the company wants you to sign before you leave.
None of these principles seems outlandish. Many of these “morals of the story” are, in the abstract, things we all should have learned ago.
Here’s another thing we should all know: unless you’re in the gun business, guns and the workplace generally do not mix. We’ve learned this from several cases of senseless gun violence in the workplace in recent years. But even before a bullet is fired, just talk of guns and work can be a bad combination, as a Florida lawsuit brought by a former law professor against his law school demonstrates.
Tariq Hassan, the former Chief Procurement Officer for JP Morgan Chase (JPMC), is taking the bank to court. In a suit filed June 15, he claims that JPMC fired him for investigating a “kickback scheme” involving the bank’s vendor management office and IT department. Then, Hassan says, JPMC’s Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Dimon, and others at JPMC badmouthed him to Citigroup Global Markets when that company was considering hiring him, and Citigroup retaliated further against him for his whistleblowing by not hiring him.
On May 13, 2012 – after just five months on the job – Scott Thompson resigned as CEO of Yahoo! Inc. in response to allegations by “activist” shareholder Dan Loeb of the hedge fund Third Point LLC that Thompson was claiming a computer science degree he did not have. An internal investigation by Yahoo revealed that Mr. Thompson’s bachelor’s degree from Ston ehill College was in accounting, not “accounting and computer science” as listed both on Mr. Thompson’s resume and in Yahoo filings with the Securites and Exchange Commission. Thompson – who is also recuperating from surgery for thyroid cancer -- subsequently resigned from the board of directors of software developer Splunk Inc. on May 21 as well.
In part two of our series on suits brought by Hollywood actresses against TV networks, we feature a case brought by Claudia DiFolco, actress and host of the one-time reality series My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, against her former employer MSNBC. Whether Hollywood actresses will continue to bring cases that perfectly illustrate black-letter legal concepts like repudiation remains to be seen.
DiFolco v. MSNBC – and the decisions that it generated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in particular – serves as a reminder to companies and executives alike that even seemingly airtight employment contracts can be for naught if the parties “repudiate” them by future conduct, making their provisions unenforceable.
Here's a roundup of this week's news involving suits by suits:
Today we are launching Suits by Suits, a legal blog about disputes between companies and their executives. The four of us are colleagues and lawyers who sometimes wear suits and who sometimes represent clients who sometimes wear suits. We also share an interest in how conflicts between companies and high-ranking employees can play out in the legal arena.
So, for example, when we see a headline about Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan’s lawsuit against ABC for wrongful termination – which, by the way, recently ended in a mistrial but has been set for a new trial to begin in September – we read the story. Then we dig deeper because, to us, this case is not just about a Hollywood celebrity, it is a suit by suit.
We want to know whether the jury was persuaded by Ms. Sheridan’s theory that her character was killed off and she was written off the show because she complained about being assaulted on the set by the show’s creator Marc Cherry.
We want to know whether the judge accepted Ms. Sheridan’s legal theory that being fired for complaining about an assault violates California public policy that employees have a right to a workplace free of violence and threats of violence.
We want to know whether ABC was able to prove that its plans to kill off Ms. Sheridan’s character were hatched long before Ms. Sheridan complained about Mr. Cherry.
We want to know whether there are any really devastating e-mails – to either side – and whether the jury is going to get to see them, or the judge will find them inadmissible.
We want to know whether any D&O insurance is available to pay Mr. Cherry’s legal fees in the case. Okay, maybe Bill is the only one who wants to know that.
Are we the only ones?
Ellen, Jason, Andrew and Bill
We cover a broad range of issues that arise in employment disputes. Occasionally, we also spotlight other topics of relevant legal interest, ranging from health care to white-collar defense to sports, just to keep things interesting.
Led by Jason Knott and Andrew Goldfarb, and featuring attorneys with deep knowledge and expertise in their fields, Suits by Suits seeks to engage its readers on these relevant and often complicated topics. Comments and special requests are welcome and invited. Before reading, please view the disclaimer.