Kleinbard LLC lawyers, Zachary Glaser and Lorena Ahumada, achieved a significant victory for client NewCourtland in a retaliation lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The plaintiff in the case had worked as a Human Resources Specialist but was fired in 2012 for falsifying her sister’s employment application and for disclosing confidential information to her sister regarding other applicants. The plaintiff’s sister was not hired for the position for which she applied, and used the confidential information provided by Plaintiff to pursue a discrimination charge against a nursing home formerly managed by NewCourtland. In her case against NewCourtland, Plaintiff claimed that she was retaliated against because she assisted with her sister’s discrimination charge, which Plaintiff argued was a protected activity under Title VII.
The Honorable Ronald L. Buckwalter, relying on case law from the Fourth, Sixth and Ninth Circuits, held that Title VII’s retaliation provisions were not meant to immunize improper acts such as the breach of an employee’s obligation to protect her employer’s confidential information. The Court, therefore, found that Plaintiff had not set forth a direct evidence of discrimination case because breaching an employer’s confidentiality policy, even if done to assist with another’s discrimination claim, is not protected activity. The court also rejected Plaintiff’s pretext argument, finding that proposed comparators, who may not have been equally disciplined for bad acts, were not “similarly situated in all relevant respects” because the severity of the misconduct for which Plaintiff was fired was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the difference in the severity of the punishment.
“This decision clarifies a key issue of first impression in the Third Circuit,” said Zachary Glaser, lead attorney on the case. “The Court’s decision makes clear that employees cannot violate company policies even if the violation is done to assist with another’s alleged discrimination claim. Judge Buckwalter’s decision also protects the integrity of the hiring process and the right of employers to terminate employees for improper conduct.”
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