Monday, July 18, 2011

Retaliation is the Hannibal Lecter of employment claims

How often do you see a perfectly defensible employment claim go up in flames because of retaliation? Take, for example, MacDonald v. UPS (6th Cir. 7/14/2011) [pdf]. In that case, the Court affirmed the dismissal of the disability discrimination claim and a companion whistleblower claim, but sent the case back for trial on the retaliation claim.

MacDonald engaged in protected activity on September 18, 2006, and was fired the same day. He returned to work on October 16, 2006, and was immediately required to write the safety rules over and over again in a notebook while his coworkers had down time. Viewed in the light most favorable to MacDonald, this requirement was punitive…. Further, within as little as two weeks, UPS ordered that surveillance be conducted on MacDonald, with the goal of disciplining him, and as soon as the security supervisor was available, MacDonald was subject to extreme scrutiny in the form of hidden surveillance cameras and tails. MacDonald again engaged in protected activity on December 18, 2006. Three weeks later, MacDonald was tailed by two supervisors, who looked for and documented the most miniscule of infractions, which were not enforced against other drivers. UPS terminated MacDonald for those infractions the following week, and a week later, MacDonald was sent on a training ride with a supervisor, who fabricated a story of gross insubordination. The following day, MacDonald was removed from service.

Retaliation claims are pure evil. They are difficult to get rid of. Have the lambs stopped screaming?

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or