Q: What are the risks to a company when making a public statement about ongoing employment litigation?

A: A federal judge in Washington, DC recently allowed a pair of married former law firm associates, suing the firm for sex discrimination, to add retaliation claims to their lawsuit for allegedly “false and malicious” statements the firm made about them in an August 2019 press release. See Savignac, et al v. Jones Day, et al, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 19-cv-02443.

By way of background, plaintiffs Julia Sheketoff and Mark Savignac sued Jones Day over a parental leave policy they claimed illegally discriminates against men by offering biological mothers eight more weeks of leave than biological fathers. They also accused the firm of firing Savignac because he challenged the firm’s policy and underpaying Sheketoff because of her sex. After they filed the highly publicized lawsuit in August 2019, the firm circulated a press release about the lawsuit.
Continue Reading A Company’s Press Release May Be Used Against It In Employee’s Retaliation Litigation

Q.  Is there anything I should look out for in documenting my legitimate business reason for terminating an employee?

A.  The United States Appeals Court for the Seventh Circuit (covering Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) recently issued an opinion that serves as a warning that inconsistent explanations of an employer’s reason for an adverse employment decision could support an inference of retaliation. In Donley v. Stryker Sales Corp., No. 17-1195 (7th Cir. Oct. 15, 2018), the plaintiff filed an internal complaint with the company’s human resources department that a manager was harassing a female coworker. The human resources director investigated the complaint and the company then terminated the manager, albeit with a hefty severance package.  Shortly after the termination, however, the plaintiff also was terminated.  The company claims that it fired the plaintiff for taking improper photographs of the CEO of a vendor, who was drunk at a work event approximately six weeks prior to plaintiff’s harassment complaint.
Continue Reading Inconsistent Factual Accounts Could Support an Inference of Retaliation