Many companies that violate the law try to keep their employees from having the ability to prove those violations of the law. The impose rules that prohibit employees from taking company documents home, or disclosing them to anyone (even courts and government law enforcement agencies). Then, if an employee uses company documents to blow the whistle on illegality, or uses company documents to sue the company, the company can fire the employee, or counter-sue the employee for “theft” of the company’s documents. This creates a dilemma for whistleblowers. When you see company documents that could help prove that company managers are violating the law, do you copy them or not?

Yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued what could become a landmark decision on this issue. In Quinlan v. Curtis Wright Corp., Case No. A-51-09, the Court reinstated a $10,649,117 judgment in a sex discrimination case. Joyce Quinlan began working for the Curtis Wright Corp. in 1980 as a benefits analyst. By 1999, she had risen to become Executive Director of Human Resources. In 2000, the company hired a man to be Director of Succession Planning and Management Development. In 2003, the company promoted him to be Corporate Director of Human Resources and Management Development, and made him Quinlan’s supervisor. Quinlan objected, but to no avail. She then reviewed the company’s records and copied 1,800 pages that showed a pattern of sex discrimination in wages and promotions. She sued, and the company asked her lawyers for copies of the evidence she planned to use. Her lawyers produced the 1,800 pages. Later, Quinlan also copied the man’s evaluation and her lawyers used it in his deposition.  The company then fired Quinlan for copying company documents. Quinlan amended her lawsuit to add a claim for retaliation.

Continue Reading New Jersey Supreme Court answers a document dilemma

Officers Donald Smalls, William James, Frazier Caudle, Nikeith Goins and Sholanda Miller worked for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) here in the District of Columbia. They worked for Lt. Ronald Wilkins of the First Division vice squad. In Feburary 2006, these five African-American officers filed anonymous charges of race discrimination against Lt. Wilkins.  Four days

Today the U.S. Supreme Court makes clear that workers are protected from retaliation when they provide information about unlawful discrimination, even when they did not initiate any legal action, but merely answered questions during the employer’s investigation. The decision is called, Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, Case No. 06-1595.

Read the Court’s full decision here.

Follow this link to NWC’s press release about the Crawford case, including links to the parties’ briefs.

This link goes to the NELA amicus brief in support of Crawford.

Continue Reading Supreme Court protects answering boss’ questions, and reverses a “freakish rule”