NewCorp Legal Scenarios
The following legal encounters involve NewCorp, your employer. You are required to provide a brief answer to questions asked at the end of each encounter. Your supervisor expects a substantive answer, not a recommendation to refer matters to an attorney. Your supervisor does not want to spend money on legal advice until after you provide an assessment.
Legal Encounter 1
NewCorp hired Pat as manager of real property in Vermont. This position is responsible for activities related to maintaining leased office space. Pat supervised 51 employees and lower-level supervisors, and he dealt with tenants who leased commercial space. Pat relocated from another city 300 miles away, moved his family, and sold and bought a home. His wife quit her job to seek employment in Vermont.
After Pat worked for three months with NewCorp, his supervisor explained that things were not working out and that Pat would be discharged with 30 days of 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 time period, termination will follow.
Pat acknowledged that he signed a document to show his understanding that the company observed employment at will with respect to discharge, but he believed the provision limited NewCorp’s freedom to discharge him at will. Pat also stated that NewCorp’s senior management was noticeably unfriendly after Pat had been vocal at a local school board meeting. His position on an issue in the meeting was unpopular, and although no one at the meeting identified Pat as a NewCorp employee, he believed this contributed to the decision to discharge him.
What liabilities and rights do NewCorp and 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 automotive under-dash wiring harnesses. Sam’s department employed about 100 men and women to create the wiring and connect it to different universal couplings so that 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, and they began dating. Paula later ended the relationship with Sam. Sam wanted to continue dating Paula, and he began exhibiting unwelcome behaviors, even after she told him to stop. Sam suggested that Paula’s work might be suffering from a lack of interest.
Paula decided she could no longer work with 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 of being liable for causing a child to be born with a birth defect. Paula believed this was Sam’s way of controlling her and that, even if it was not, it was illegal discrimination.
What liability does NewCorp have in this situation? What actions might NewCorp take? Identify which legal principles, such as statutory or case law, support your responses.
Legal Encounter 3
NewCorp employed Paul as a senior maintenance technician, which required him to work in confined spaces to repair equipment. Repairing the pulp shredder was particularly difficult because the space where Paul worked was narrow. After an employee was injured when working on the machine, NewCorp attempted to relocate it to create more space, but nearby building support beams did not allow for relocation.
Paul refused to work on the machine, saying that the workspace 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. This statement makes the situation 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 specific regulatory compliance issues arise in this scenario? How should NewCorp address those issues? How should NewCorp manage the legal risk associated with those issues?
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