Documentation is the most important tool in an employer’s toolbox to defend against employment law claims by employees, at least according to one recently decided case. In Simons v. Boston Scientific, the Court ruled that documented evidence produced by the employer was so strong that no reasonable jury could disbelieve the reasons given for termination by the employer.
You see, the employee in Simons had a pattern of excessive drinking that interfered with his work performance, which the employer documented. The employee was given two written warnings for alcohol-related conduct at work, including slurred speech and visible intoxication, and other inappropriate behavior, at a business dinner and during a meeting. Subsequent to these warnings, the employee again slurred his words and was incoherent during a conference call. Additionally, he incurred a DUI while driving during work hours. The day after the DUI, the employee requested leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to address his alcoholism.
During his leave, the employer investigated a claim of sexual harassment against the employee which another employee alleged occurred at a sales meeting. In the course of the investigation, the employer discovered that the employee had received the DUI charge (the employee never reported the charge to his employer), and confirmed that the employee appeared to be intoxicated on the conference call which took place after he had been given two written warnings against repeating this behavior on the job. The employer fired the employee. The employee claimed he was wrongfully terminated by the employer, among other reasons, because of his disability of alcoholism, and because he took leave under the FMLA.
The Court held that there was “ample evidence of misconduct, poor business judgment, and violations of the company’s policies” and the employee could not show that the employer had fired him for any other reason than the legitimate reasons stated by the company. This ample evidence, according to the Court, included the written warnings, the DUI arrest during work hours, and the testimony of other employees affirming the employee’s improper behavior, that the sexual harassment investigation revealed. The Court also held that, even though the employee was terminated soon after he requested leave under the FMLA, he could not establish a causal connection between his request and his termination in light of the evidence of his misconduct prior to his request for leave.
Takeaway: Documentation of employee misconduct is strong evidence to defend against employee claims of wrongful termination. Make sure you keep detailed records. Document, document, document!
If you are an employer with questions about what you can do to minimize employment law claims against your business in New Jersey, contact Stephanie Gironda or any member of the Wilentz Employment Law Team at 732-352-9858.
The postings on this blog were created for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. Although we attempt to ensure that the postings are complete, accurate, and current as of the time of publication, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.
This blog may contain links to independent third party websites and services, including social media. We provide these links for your convenience, and you access them at your own risk. We have no control over and do not monitor the content or policies (including privacy policies) of these third-party websites and have no responsibility for, and no liability with respect to, their content, accuracy, or reliability. Unless expressly stated, we do not endorse any of the linked websites or any product, service, or publication referenced herein or therein. We will remove a link to any site from this blog upon request of the linked entity.
We grant permission to readers to link to this blog so long as this blog is not misrepresented. This site is not sponsored or associated with any other site unless so identified.
If you wish for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., to consider representing you, please obtain contact information from the Contact Us area of this blog or go to the firm’s website at www.wilentz.com. One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. However, the authors of Wilentz blogs are licensed only in New Jersey and/or New York and do not wish to represent anyone who viewed this site in a state where the site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state.