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E-mail about a colleague evidenced harassment; ambiguous covenant not to compete enforced; more.
Sexist E-Mail Backfires
EEOC v. PVNF LLC d/b/a Chuck Daggett Motors, 10th Cir., No. 06-2011 (May 14, 2007). A sexually charged e-mail exchange between two workers at an auto dealership about the plaintiff, but not directed at her, can support a claim of sexual harassment, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Marla Segovia, a car sales manager at Chuck Daggett Motors in Portales, N.M., was regularly subjected to sex-based remarks from the owners of the dealership, her co-workers and her subordinates. One of the owners, Alva Carter, made numerous remarks to Segovia and other female employees, such as “[women] belong at home barefoot and pregnant” and “women did not belong in the workplace because of their child care issues.” Segovia complained to the dealership’s other owner, Chuck Daggett, but the gender-based remarks continued. After a verbal confrontation with used car sales manager Roger Ennis, during which Ennis called Segovia a “bitch,” she accessed Daggett’s work e-mail account without his permission. She noticed that Ennis had forwarded an e-mail conversation to Daggett that included a discussion between Ennis and one of Segovia’s male subordinates. In the e-mail, Ennis asked Segovia’s subordinate why he could not leave work to go buy beer, wondering, “[Segovia] got you by the balls?” Segovia’s subordinate responded with a sexually derogatory, vulgar e-mail about Segovia’s anatomy and dress. Segovia subsequently notified Daggett and Carter that she had seen the e-mail and that she was offended. Daggett asked the subordinate to apologize, and Carter simply instructed Segovia to not let it interfere with her work. A month later, Daggett sent Segovia an “Employee Warning Notice” and a “New Pay Plan,” advising her that she had been late to work too often and that her subordinates had registered complaints about her unavailability. No other sales managers who had been tardy or attended to personal business while at work had ever been written up for doing so. Moreover, under the new pay plan, Segovia and Ennis were to share 60 percent of their combined commissions, despite the fact that Segovia earned much higher commissions. Segovia resigned, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on her behalf alleging sexual harassment under Title VII. After the EEOC presented its evidence at trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of Daggett Motors. The EEOC appealed. On appeal, the 10th Circuit reversed the judgment and ordered a new trial. Noting that the owners of Daggett Motors knew about all of the conduct and chose to either ignore it or respond “only in the most minimal of ways,” the 10th Circuit held that a reasonable jury could conclude that Segovia’s work environment was charged with gender bias and sexual animus such that it altered her working conditions. By Scott R. Eldridge, an attorney with the firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC in Lansing, Mich.
Ambiguous Covenant Not To Compete Enforced
King’s agreement with PA Consulting prohibited him from servicing PA Consulting clients for one year after his employment with PA Consulting for any reason. However, a “side letter” to the agreement gave King an escape hatch: If he were to resign during the 180-day period that commenced 18 months after the completion of PA Consulting’s acquisition of Hagler Bailley, King would be released from his noncompete obligation.
Remark Triggered Unemployment Comp
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