Say what you want to about Warren Buffett, but he made his money by not spending it extravagantly. The multi-billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway, who could live in a palace if he chose to, still lives in a rather modest ranch house in Omaha, Nebraska.
And while he is “famous for not micro-managing” the businesses he’s invested in, he does have a limit: he recently fired the head of Benjamin Moore, one of his companies, for taking the entire corporate leadership of the paint company on a yacht cruise to Bermuda on the company’s (really, Warren Buffett’s) dime.
From The Inbox: Tempers may be flaring around the country given this week's rampant heat wave, because the big news seems to be about heated wrongful termination suits between employers and their employees:
In Tampa – where Zuckerman Spaeder maintains a great office, by the way – the former human resources director of Hillsborough County has sued the county for wrongful termination. That in itself may not be so unusual – but as the Tampa Bay Times notes, the suit follows the HR director’s complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission that the County’s property appraiser sent her pornographic emails. Another rule to live by: don’t send the HR director pornographic email.
From West Virginia, a woman has sued TRG Solutions, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated for being pregnant. Surely by coincidence, she was fired the day she told her supervisor she was pregnant.
Meanwhile, in Pasadena, a judge has ruled that a group of employees suing the city for wrongful termination are not entitled to have their jobs back while their case works its way toward trial.
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.
A rare news recap that has nothing to do with health care reform:
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.
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.
This week in suits by suits:
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.  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.
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.
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