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April 26, 2017

An employer's personnel policies may be operative with respect to its employees' conduct while its employees are "off-duty"


An employer's personnel policies may be operative with respect to its employees' conduct while its employees are "off-duty"
Redfern-Wallace v Buffalo News, CWA Local 81, CA2nd Circuit, Docket #16-3007-cv

The Petitioner in this action claimed that she was the victim of race discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment by her employer, the Buffalo News Co., in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [42 U.S.C. §2000e]. She also contended that CWA Local 81 had breached its duty of fair representation with respect to her advancing her claims against Buffalo News.

Petitioner contended that she had been disciplined and terminated from her position by Buffalo News, while a co-worker, who was similarly situated in all material respects to her, was neither disciplined nor terminated.

Although Petitioner had admitted to Buffalo News that she had sent inappropriate text messages to the co-worker, she failed to provide any evidence to Buffalo News, or to the court in the course of the litigation, to corroborate her allegation that the co-worker had sent her inappropriate text messages in the same exchange.

The Circuit Court of Appeals said that Petitioner "thus failed to show that she and [the co-worker] were 'similarly situated in all material respects' because she did not demonstrate that they both 'engaged in' conduct of comparable seriousness.”

Petitioner had also claimed that the conduct that resulted in her dismissal from her position occurred outside of work and therefore did not violate any of Buffalo News’ rules or policies. The court disagreed, commenting that Buffalo News’ anti-harassment policy was not limited to conduct occurring at work but covered [employee] conduct outside of work that affected the workplace as well.*

Finally, Petitioner claimed "ineffective assistance of counsel." However, the Circuit Court dismissed this contention, explaining that such a claim "is not cognizable in a civil case," citing United States v. Coven, 662 F.2d 162.

* In Tessiero v Bennett, 50 A.D.3d 1368, the Appellate Division sustained the termination of an employee found guilty of off-duty misconduct that brought discredit upon the employer. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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