A few weeks ago, I sketched out the high-profile breach of contract dispute between Keith Olbermann and former Vice President Al Gore’s cable TV network, Current TV.
Since then, Current TV has added a new talk show to be hosted by Joy Behar, and on-air host Cenk Uygur has obliquely responded to some of Olbermann’s criticisms that were made public by the filing of Olbermann’s lawsuit. (Q: “Have you talked to Keith Olbermann since he left the network?” A: “Did I talk to Keith Olbermann before he left the network? The answer to your question is no.”) Oh, and Olbermann’s Countdown blog continues to be hosted on Current TV's website, although it (obviously) has not been updated since March 29, 2012 – Olbermann’s last day on the air.
Last time, I highlighted the six breaches of contract alleged by Current that, if material and uncured, might justify Current’s decision to terminate Olbermann without paying him the nearly $40 million left on his contract.
In my last post, I made the case that new social media haven’t changed the issues that come up in legal disputes between companies and high-ranking employees. But social media can add some new twists. For instance, are a company’s Twitter followers the equivalent of a confidential client list, such that you would be “misappropriating” a company “trade secret” if you left and took the list with you?
Twitter and other social media may be transforming our world, but they haven’t changed laws and company policies against disclosing sensitive company information. Take the recent firing – reported in The Inbox – by women’s clothing retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp. of its CFO, Gene Morphis.
For a high-level executive leaving a company under less-than-ideal conditions, it’s as common as handing in keys to security and shutting down the computer for the last time. In exchange for a severance payment, the executive is asked to sign the typical general release: “I hereby release my employer from any claims, liabilities, demands, or causes of action . . .”
Unsurprisingly, once an employee signs a general release, if he later sues, he is likely to face a quick motion to dismiss.
The latest developments in suits by suits:
A key question looming over any lawsuit is, "Will the case go to trial?" Or, as lawyers usually put the issue, "Will the case survive summary judgment?" (For any laypeople reading this, summary judgment is a procedure for disposing of cases prior to trial if there are no meaningful disputes about the important facts—as lawyers put it, no “genuine issues of material fact.”) Last week, a New York appellate court affirmed a grant of summary judgment against a urologist’s discrimination claim, holding that his employer successfully presented evidence of legitimate reasons for its adverse actions against him. Melman v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 2012 N.Y. Slip. Op. 04111 (May 29, 2012). The Melman decision shows how judges can agree on how to decide whether to grant summary judgment on such claims, yet still disagree on whether summary judgment ought to be granted.
I need to start off with a confession: my name is Bill and I’m an insurance lawyer. (“Welcome, Bill”). I’m going to be writing about insurance as it applies to employment-related disputes. Even though you may think insurance is a very dry subject, I promise to make it as interesting as I can – although there will be no dancing green lizards in any of these posts. And, if you work for (or defend) a company that can face suits by employees, you may find these posts to be interesting food for thought when it comes to protecting your corporate bottom line from those suits. (As always, though, whether an individual dispute is insured or not is a very fact-specific inquiry that depends on the language of the policy and the facts at issue – your mileage may vary, as they say).
This week in suits by suits (and jerseys):
As the regulatory and business environments in which our clients operate grow increasingly complex, we identify and offer perspectives on significant legal developments affecting businesses, organizations, and individuals. Each post aims to address timely issues and trends by evaluating impactful decisions, sharing observations of key enforcement changes, or distilling best practices drawn from experience. InsightZS also features personal interest pieces about the impact of our legal work in our communities and about associate life at Zuckerman Spaeder.
Information provided on InsightZS should not be considered legal advice and expressed views are those of the authors alone. Readers should seek specific legal guidance before acting in any particular circumstance.