Monday, February 7, 2011

Employment Case Law Update

--Docken v State of Minnesota, DMinn: Defendant's motion for summary judgment GRANTED. A former employee of the state of Minnesota, who alleged that the state “blackballed” her from further employment in retaliation for a prior FMLA lawsuit, failed to show a causal relationship between her failure to obtain a position with the state and her prior FMLA lawsuit despite applying for over 100 positions with the State since 2005. In granting the motion for summary judgment, the court discusses the problems with the plaintiff attorney's affidavit in opposition to the motion for summary judgment which led to several pieces of evidence deemed inadmissible.

This case highlights an important lesson in what probability shows and what you can prove in court. Though the plaintiff had a relatively impressive resume that probably should have made her qualified for at least one position with the state in the numerous years and over 100 applications she submitted, she simply was not able to show her previous FMLA claim factored in to a single application she submitted--and maybe it didn't. Perhaps a more clever approach to discovery and a certain type of expert could have saved the day for this plaintiff?

--Feldmann v New York Life Ins. Co., EDMo: Defendant's motions for summary judgment GRANTED. An insurance agent’s claims that an insurance company, New York Life Insurance Co., and a coworker, who conducted a consensual affair with his wife, violated Title VII by creating a hostile work environment for female employees and agents were rejected as the court first found that although the company trained the plaintiff, provided him with benefits, withheld federal taxes from his commissions, and retained the right to terminate his contract at will, when all relevant factors were considered, the balance tipped in favor of a finding that the plaintiff was an independent contractor and not an employee within the meaning of Title VII. Even so, the court, in the alternative, found that even if the plaintiff is considered to be an "employee" and protected under Title VII, his claims still fail because the plaintiff did not engage in an activity protected by Title VII, his employer did not take any adverse action against him, and moreover, there was no causal connection between plaintiff’s participation in the alleged protected activity and his alleged adverse employment action.

--EEOC v Southeast Telecom., Inc, MDTenn: Defendant's motions for summary judgment DENIED. In a case of facts that cannot be denied, a Tennessee district court held that the employer’s actions, which included deactivating the employee’s keyfob, disabling her network and e-mail access, and ultimately terminating her after she reported gender discrimination, were adverse employment actions. Also damning to the employer is that fact the complaint of discrimination was made, the disconnections occurred, and the employee was terminated all within one week give rise to an inference of a causal connection between her complaint and the adverse actions, including, but not limited to, her termination.

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