Legal Encounter 1
NewCorp hired Pat as manager of real property in Vermont, responsible for activities related to maintaining leased office space. Pat supervised 51 employees and lower-level supervisors, and dealt with tenants who leased commercial space. Pat relocated from another city 300 miles away, moving his wife and children, and selling and buying a home. His wife quit her job to seek employment in Vermont.
After Pat had been working for three months, his boss explained that things were not working out, and that Pat would be discharged with 30 days' severance pay. Pat was surprised because his employer gave no previous indication of any problem. NewCorp's personnel manual, which had been provided to Pat upon his acceptance of employment, outlined the process for dealing with unsatisfactory employees:
Notice of Unsatisfactory Performance/Corrective Action Plan
If the job performance of an employee is unsatisfactory, the employee will be notified of the deficiency and placed on a corrective action plan. If the employee's performance does not improve to a satisfactory level in the specified period of time, termination will follow.
Pat acknowledged that, upon employment, he signed an understanding that the company observed employment at will with respect to discharge, but believed the provision limited NewCorp's freedom to fire him at will. Finally, Pat observes that NewCorp senior management was noticeably unfriendly after Pat had been vocal at a local school board meeting. In the meeting, Pat insisted that sports funds should be equally allocated among all athletic programs, not just on boys' football and basketball. His position was unpopular, and although no one at the meeting identified Pat as a NewCorp employee, he believed this contributed to the decision to fire him.
What liability and rights do NewCorp or Pat have in this situation? What legal principles, such as statutory or case law, support those liabilities and rights?
Legal Encounter 2
NewCorp employed Sam as a supervisor of electrical manufacturing for auto under-dash wiring harnesses. Sam's department employed about 100 men and women to create the wiring, coat it with various insulators, and connect it to different universal couplings, so speedometers, oil gauges, and other instruments would work. The final product, an under-dash wiring harness, was sent to the assembly plant for installation.
Sam developed a relationship with one of his employees, Paula. They began dating and the relationship turned into a torrid affair that included frequent trysts at the workplace. Paula later met and began dating a man who did not work for NewCorp, and ended the affair with Sam. Sam did not give up easily, and continued exhibiting other unwelcome behaviors, even after Paula told him to stop. Sam suggested that Paula's work might be suffering from a lack of interest on her part, because she stopped dating him.
Paula decided to get away from Sam, and applied for a transfer to the wire-coating department, which was not under his control. Sam blocked the transfer, citing evidence that chemicals used in wire coatings could harm an early-state fetus. Because Paula could become pregnant, Sam argued, NewCorp could not take the chance for Paula to work in wire coating because of the possible liability for a resulting birth defect. Paula believed this was Sam's way of keeping her under his thumb, and that, even if it was not, it was illegal discrimination based on sex.
What liability does NewCorp have in this situation? What can NewCorp do? In your answer, identify what legal principles, such as statutory or case law, support your belief.
Legal Encounter 3
NewCorp employed Paul as a senior maintenance technician, which required him to work in confined spaces to repair equipment. Repair of the pulp shredder was particularly difficult because the space in which Paul worked was narrow, and the machine noise and vibration irritated Paul when he turned the machine on and off. After one employee was injured when working on the machine, NewCorp attempted to moved it to create more space, but nearby building support beams allowed little movement.
Paul refused to work on the machine, saying that it was too confining and dangerous. The NewCorp safety manager reviewed the area and deemed it safe. Paul said he became claustrophobic because of working in such confined spaces, and this condition arose from his employment, making it a worker compensation issue. Paul called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to complain about NewCorp requiring him to work in a dangerous situation. In addition to calling OSHA, Paul threatened to get a lawyer and sue NewCorp. Management was not sure what legal principles apply to the circumstances in this situation.
What liability does NewCorp have? What regulatory and compliance requirements and legal principles, such as statutory or case law, are relevant to this situation?