• 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.

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  • 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.

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  • A rare news recap that has nothing to do with health care reform:

    • Live Nation Entertainment has finally found harmony with its former chairman Michael Cohl, settling a dispute over a claim that Cohl owed it money under his severance agreement.  When Cohl left Live Nation in 2008, he agreed to pay $9.85 million over two years to buy parts of the business and get out from under parts of a broad noncompete provision.  Live Nation sued him in 2010, saying he still owed $5.4 million.  Marketwatch.
    • An employee who insisted on getting paid under a severance agreement because he was competing with his former employer (apparently the severance agreement did provide for such payments) was socked with $40,000 in fees for his efforts after the trial court granted summary judgment for the employer, which argued that he was not competing with it.  Odd.  JD Supra.
    • Daniel Foreman, an investment fund executive, filed suit against Cardinal Growth Corp., claiming that it misrepresented the value of funds when it asked him to help it find companies to invest in.  He seeks $82,000 in unpaid fees, as well as other payments.  AltAssets.
    • The former chief executive of Extended Stay hotels was socked with a $100 million judgment in that company’s bankruptcy, based on a series of personal guarantees.  But he’s not taking the judgment lying down.  He’s sued Extended Stay’s bankruptcy lawyers, alleging that their malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty caused the judgment against him.  Thomson Reuters.
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  • So maybe Clyde Bennett’s story isn’t quite as compelling as “The Fugitive” – the 1960s- era TV show and 1993 movie about a doctor wrongfully accused of killing his wife who has to go on a manhunt for the real killer, all the while being pursued by police. 

    But a jury in federal court in Virginia found the wrongful allegation that Bennett had stolen computers from his employer pretty compelling.  Compelling enough to award him $1.7 million in compensatory and $350,000 in punitive damages when Bennett sued his employer for malicious prosecution.  And just last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s decision.  My colleague Andrew Torrez noted the decision last week, primarily because the verdict is unusually high for a case like this.  But it bears some more in-depth review. 

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  • Today’s decision of interest, U.S. Electrical Services, Inc. v. Schmidt (D. Mass. June 19, 2012), involves everyone’s favorite strip-mall stop: the Dollar Tree. James Schmidt and Peter Colon wanted to sell lighting and fixtures to the Dollar Tree (presumably for more than $1.00). Their former employer, U.S. Electrical Services (USESI), wanted to stop them, because it wanted to bid on the same Dollar Tree lighting account and it didn’t want Schmidt and Colon using its confidential pricing information to make their bid. 

    At the time USESI sued, the account was up for bid in only a few days. So USESI didn’t just file a complaint and seek damages. Instead, it asked for a preliminary injunction barring Schmidt, Colon, and their new employer, Munro, from competing for the business.

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  • This week in suits by suits:

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  • If you’ve had any sort of a working life, then you’ve been asked at least one odd question on a job interview.  My personal favorite is why manhole covers are round. [1]  But the oddest interview question I’ve ever been asked was: “Who was Saint Thomas Aquinas?”  In my panic and surprise, my mind confused its files labeled “English Religious leaders named Thomas from the Middle Ages,” and I described for my interviewer Sir Thomas More.  My interviewer – a leading lawyer at a very prestigious New York firm – sat silently for a moment, and then lectured me on how I apparently didn’t have the liberal arts background necessary to work at his firm. 

    Setting aside how happy I am, in retrospect, that I didn’t wind up working for someone who would grill me about medieval history, it is rare that any job interview question involves saints or other facets of religious belief.  Most employers don’t delve into that subject with candidates – either they don’t care to inquire, or they don’t believe religion (or lack of it) has any bearing on the quality of an employee’s work. 

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  • A few weeks ago, I sketched out the high-profile breach of contract dispute between Keith Olbermann and former Vice President Al Gore’s cable TV network, Current TV.

    Since then, Current TV has added a new talk show to be hosted by Joy Behar, and on-air host Cenk Uygur has obliquely responded to some of Olbermann’s criticisms that were made public by the filing of Olbermann’s lawsuit.  (Q: “Have you talked to Keith Olbermann since he left the network?”  A:  “Did I talk to Keith Olbermann before he left the network?  The answer to your question is no.”)  Oh, and Olbermann’s Countdown blog continues to be hosted on Current TV's website, although it (obviously) has not been updated since March 29, 2012 – Olbermann’s last day on the air.

    Last time, I highlighted the six breaches of contract alleged by Current that, if material and uncured, might justify Current’s decision to terminate Olbermann without paying him the nearly $40 million left on his contract.

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    • A federal trial court in Minnesota has dismissed an antitrust action filed by former football players against the NFL.  The players alleged that the NFL is monopolizing the market of their likenesses by using historical game footage featuring the players in promotional videos.  The court distinguished the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in American Needle, Inc. v. NFL,saying that the former football players failed to allege concerted action between the NFL and the teams that is illegal under the Sherman Act.  The court suggested that, even though the antitrust action would not go forward, the players may have claims against the NFL for violating their right of publicity.   
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  • In my last post, I made the case that new social media haven’t changed the issues that come up in legal disputes between companies and high-ranking employees.  But social media can add some new twists.  For instance, are a company’s Twitter followers the equivalent of a confidential client list, such that you would be “misappropriating” a company “trade secret” if you left and took the list with you? 

    Read more

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.

Contributing Editors
John J. Connolly

John J. Connolly
Partner
Email | +1 410.949.1149


Andrew N. Goldfarb

Andrew N. Goldfarb
Partner
Email | +1 202.778.1822


Sara Alpert Lawson_listing

Sara Alpert Lawson
Partner
Email | +1 813.321.8204


Nicholas M. DiCarlo

Nicholas M. DiCarlo
Associate
Email | +1 202.778.1835


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