The Inbox: Mr. Vernon “Expected A Little More From A Varsity Letterman” Edition

| William A. Schreiner, Jr.

It’s been a busy week here at the Suits-by-SuitsGlobal Executive Employment Dispute Centre in Washington, D.C., what with interesting Supreme Court arguments being heard, the famous Cherry Blossoms about to blossom, our beloved Nationals putting final touches on their pitching rotation, and even some more snow from the winter without end. 

But none of that matters next to what’s really important about this week: which is that Monday marked thirty years (!) since the fabled “Breakfast Club” met for detention on a dreary Saturday, March 24, 1984, (at Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois…).  In celebration of the great teen-angst classic, we’re using quotes from the film to introduce this week's collection of interesting news notes from the world of executive-level employment disputes.  So here they are, framed by the work of the movie’s writer and director, the late, great John Hughes

“Well, then you know how hairy [Larry Lester] is. And when they pulled the tape off, most of his hair came off and some - some skin, too”:  This is likely not a problem faced by clients of hairstylist Oribe Canales, who include celebs like Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks.  But Canales, in a suit filed in New York, is seeking $500,000 from two business partners who he claims are violating non-compete clauses by selling competing hair products. 

“I make $31,000 a year and I have a home and I’m not about to throw it all away on some punk like you.”  But dear Mr. Vernon – late character actor Paul Gleason – would have to have payroll taxes withheld from that money if any of it was severance pay, the U.S. Supreme Court held this week, applying a broad definition of “wages.”  

“You know what I got for Christmas? Oh, it was a banner *** year at the old Bender family. I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, smoke up Johnny.’” Departing CEO’s may not be exactly in John Bender’s position – most golden parachutes still exceed the value of a carton of Camels – but Fortune Magazine writes that the size of these exit packages is trending downward due to more disclosure about them. 

“I look through your letters. I look through your lockers. I listen to your conversations, you don’t know that, but I do. I am the eyes and ears of this institution, my friends,” said John Kapelos as janitor Carl Reed.  But now a former chief information security officer for cyber security company LifeLock alleges, in his complaint filed in federal court in Arizona, that the company turned off or limited its famous credit-monitoring service for elderly customers to cut down on the volume of calls those customers made to LifeLock after they received credit alerts – and that he was fired when he tried to blow the whistle on the practice

“I don’t have to run away and live in the street. I can run away and I can go to the ocean, I can go to the country, I can go to the mountains. I could go to Israel, Africa, Afghanistan.” Yes, Ally Sheedy, portraying “basket case” Allison Reynolds, could run away to wherever she wanted to go.  And so can former Symantec CEO Steve Bennett, who according to Reuters could receive up to $18.5 million in severance – and a total compensation package of over $36 million for his twenty months of work, says the Wall Street Journal.  That’s a lot of plane tickets to go essentially anywhere, even Afghanistan.     

 “Brian Johnson: Well, what I had said was I’m in the math club, uh, the Latin, and the physics club... physics club. John Bender: …What do you guys do in your club? Brian Johnson: Well, in physics we... we talk about physics, properties of physics. John Bender: So it’s sorta social, demented and sad, but social. Right?” Demented, sad, “sorta social,” and academic may sum up what happened when a young professor was offered a tenure-track job at an upstate New York college and did the normal thing – tried to negotiate over the terms by making a counter-offer – only to learn that in response to her counter-offer, the college rescinded the offer in what some say was a gender-related decision

“Andrew Clark: What do you need a fake I.D. for? Brian Johnson: So I can vote.” Perhaps Anthony Michael Hall’s “neo maxi zoom dweebie” character is planning to vote for Curt Clawson in the Republican primary to replace former Florida congressman Trey Radel – if so, he’s surely heard that Clawson is facing attacks from his opponents for getting a “golden parachute” and a “bailout” at the same time, when a company Clawson owned went into bankruptcy and some of its pension liability was picked up by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation while he allegedly received a $6.7 million severance payout.

“I don't think that from a legal standpoint what he did can be construed as [illegal], since I paid him,” says Allison Reynolds, talking about her perverted therapist. Which brings to mind this interesting piece in Forbes this week, noting that theoretically at least, the new billionaires being minted on Wall Street could soon include whistleblowers who “choose the bumpy road less traveled” to their wealth by reporting wrongdoing to officials and reaping the rewards under Dodd-Frank and similar bounty-sharing programs. 

“ ‘Andrew! You’ve got to be number one! I won’t tolerate any losers in this family! …Win! Win! Win!’ … You know, sometimes I wish my knee would give. And I wouldn’t be able to wrestle anymore. And he could forget all about me,” agonizes Emilio Estevez’s character, wrestler Andrew Clark, about his father’s pressure to compete.  Hopefully, Clark is able to read, even if he doesn’t wind up with a scholarship: a recent controversial report by University of North Carolina reading specialist Mary Willingham contends that  seventy percent of that school’s basketball and football players couldn’t read above the eighth grade level.  The University’s response to Willingham is being called an attempt to silence a whistleblower in some quarters.    

“Andrew Clark: Look, you guys keep up your talking and Vernon’s gonna come right in here. I got a meet this Saturday and I’m not gonna miss it on account of you boneheads.  John Bender: Oh, and wouldn’t that be a bite, huh? Missing a whole wrestling meet!”  Perhaps, if he was in college, Andrew Clark could appeal to a union: while not really C-suite material, we can’t help but note that the National Labor Relations Board has held that football players at Northwestern are “employees” and can unionize. The university and NCAA are planning to appeal. 

“John Bender: Hey, homeboy, what do you say we close that door, we’ll get the prom queen impregnated.”  We’ve written about pregnancy discrimination in employment before, and the issues it raises for executives and employees alike.  This week, the Florida State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would prohibit such discrimination under that state’s law. 

You will see the examples above as you want to see them – “in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.”  But if you want an even greater dose of The Breakfast Club, the entire script is here.

Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.

As the regulatory and business environments in which our clients operate grow increasingly complex, we identify and offer perspectives on significant legal developments affecting businesses, organizations, and individuals. Each post aims to address timely issues and trends by evaluating impactful decisions, sharing observations of key enforcement changes, or distilling best practices drawn from experience. InsightZS also features personal interest pieces about the impact of our legal work in our communities and about associate life at Zuckerman Spaeder.

Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.

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