Though employees deserve to be compensated when their rights are violated at work, not every discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination claim is valid. Sometimes, there are underlying problems at work and angry or terminated employees wrongfully assert that their employer violated the law in some fashion. In one recent Oregon case, an Administrative Law Judge found in favor of the employer, deciding that, based on the complicated facts, the employee’s harassment and wrongful termination claims were unfounded.
Sexual Harassment Claim
Durga Scheper worked as a bookkeeper and administrative assistant for a small company in Oregon, Columbia Components, Inc, owned by Michael Able. Scheper’s duties included checking Able’s various email accounts and sending necessary responses. Scheper claimed that she discovered and printed several emails that Able had sent to “craigslist.org” addresses that seemed to be responses to sex
solicitations. She had several other printouts of sexual “pop-ups” to which she claimed she was repeatedly subjected on the company computer.
As part of her payroll duties, Scheper sent the social security numbers of seven employees to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for verification. The SSA responded that five of the SSNs were not valid. Scheper reported these concerns to Able, and claims she was later terminated because of her communications with the SSA. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries filed a claim on Scheper’s behalf. Other Trouble at WorkAble asserts a different story regarding Scheper’s employment. First, he stated she never complained of any sexual harassment or offensive behavior at work, and did not know that she saw any questionable emails from his sent box. Furthermore, some of the “pop-ups” she presented were printed out on February 1st, 2011, a day on which Scheper did not even work at the company.
On the other hand, Scheper’s husband had asked Able to be partners in a new business venture with him, which likely would not have happened if Able had been sexually harassing his wife. The business venture was a scam and both men lost money. Able was embarrassed, and thus was not truthful about the amount of money he invested in the fake business venture. He stated that Scheper found out the true investment amount and called him a liar and a cheat. Able stated Scheper was angry at work and that he asked her to “change her attitude” or leave and come back again when her attitude had been modified. Scheper left and did not return to work. Able stated that her departure from the company had absolutely nothing to do with her communications with the SSA.
The court found that many of the witnesses were not credible and that the evidence did not support Scheper’s claims of harassment or whistleblowing violations.
This is an example of a complicated case in which a disgruntled employee tried to take action against her former employer by filing unfounded claims. Employers should not have to compensate
employees if they did nothing wrong. If you are facing invalid employment claims, you should contact the attorneys at HKM to help defend your case.