Articles Posted in Retaliation

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Former Junction City Police Chief Jimmy Gipson has filed a Kentucky whistleblower lawsuit alleges he was fired by Mayor Jim Douglas in retaliation for calling another police agency after the mayor appeared to be drinking on the job. Gipson is seeking reinstatement to his former job, backpay and an unspecified amount of punitive damages for sullying his reputation. Junction City is also named as a defendant. It is alleged that Douglas fired Gipson, longtime police and fire chief in Junction City, on Dec. 29, 2011 without a public explanation. On Dec. 30, Gipson received an official letter signed by the mayor stating he was terminated for “insubordination and continual disregard for city policies.” The lawsuit alleges that Gipson was working inside the city firehouse Dec. 29 when Douglas drove up in a city vehicle and began to yell and act belligerently. Smelling alcohol on the mayor, Gipson called the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office, which passed the matter on to Kentucky State Police.

The Kentucky lawsuit claims that state police arrived and performed a portable Breathalyzer test on the Mayor and found his blood-alcohol content was .04. A person in Kentucky is guilty of a DUI if they operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or higher. The suit further alleges that immediately after the incident, Gipson was called in to City Clerk Susan Music’s office and told to sign a resignation later and turn in his police gear. When Gipson refused, Douglas entered the office and fired him on the spot.

This is a classic case example of a Whistleblower lawsuit. The Kentucky Whistleblower statute is KRS 61.100 et seq. and requires that suit be filed within 90 days of the retaliatory action occurring. In cases like this, the Plaintiff is required to prove:
(1) that he was a government employee (as here a police officer);
(2) that he made a good faith report of a suspect legal violation to the proper authorities (as here he suspected drinking and driving, and reported it to law enforcement); and (3) that the report was a contributing and material factor in the decision made against him (the proximity in time between the report and the action taken against him, as is here the same day, will support such a finding).
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A Kentucky man was fired in 2003 from a steel plant a month after his bosses learned that his fiancée had filed a discrimination complaint against the company. He sued claiming that they fired him to retaliate against his fiancée. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that he can sue his employer for retaliation related to his fiancée’s complaint. Justice Scalia wrote: “We think it obvious that a reasonable worker might be dissuaded’ from filing a complaint “if she knew that her fiancée would be fired.” The 8-0 ruling provides important protect for Kentucky workers whose spouses or relatives work at the same company and who might otherwise be afraid to file discrimination or sexual harassment complaints against their employers out of fear that relatives might suffer retaliation from such complaints.

For more information on the rights of Kentucky Workers in the workplace who have suffered from retaliation, sexual harassment, or discrimination, see one of our previous blog posts on these type of claims. (Click here for the link).570502_myself.jpg
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931543_-team_iii-.jpg Kentucky is an “employee at will” doctrine state. In Kentucky your employer can terminate you at any time, with or without reason, and you can quit at any time, with or without reason (provided there is not a written contract to the contrary). The Kentucky Supreme Court has interpreted the “employee at will” doctrine as meaning: “An employer can fire an employee for cause, without cause, or even for cause that may seem to be morally indefensible. It is only illegal if the employer violates a contract, retaliates against an employee for exercising certain legal rights or if the employer takes action in violation of a protected status (discriminates).”Kentucky employee’s have very limited protections against bad employers. If a Kentucky employee is fired or suffers negative consequences in the workplace, they must examine the below to consider if they have legal action against their employer.

It is illegal to:
(i) discriminate based upon race, gender, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, or disability;
(ii) require an employee to lie to a government authority or in an investigation, or take action against an employee who refuses to do such;
(iii) require an employee to violate the law, or take action against an employee who refuses to do such;
(iv) prevent an employee from reporting violation of the law, including civil statutes such as discrimination laws and/or suspected healthcare violations or dangers related to a medical patient’s care;
(v) take action against or fire an employee in violation of the terms of a specific written contract of employment between the employer and the employee.

Workplace Sexual Harassments & Harassments In order for work place harassment or discrimination to be actionable, it must be more than personality conflicts and a general dislike of a person, and it must be “severe and so pervasive” so that it “unreasonably interferes with a person’s ability to do his/her job.” Isolated acts or isolated comments are NOT sufficient under the law to rise to the level to be actionable in court.

Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination has to be based upon one of the following: race, gender, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, or disability. These are referred to as protected statuses.
Under a discrimination legal action, the discrimination has to be evidenced by either:
(1) direct evidence, which would be the effect of verbally or in writing stating negative expressions or actions towards a person based one of the protected statuses above, or (2) indirect evidence, which would be a comparison between how protected status persons are treated versus how those who do not fall in the protected status are treated.
As with workplace harassments, the workplace discrimination will not be legally actionable if it is an isolated incident.

Government Employee Whistleblower Protections
It is illegal for a government agency to take action against an employee who in good faith reports a suspected violation of law, fraud, or abuse of authority, to the proper authorities or another government agency.
These persons are referred to as “Whistleblowers.”
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