This Christmas we wrote about a couple of wacky cases. We got some good comments.
On December 22nd we wrote about a New Zealand Herald report that “A young woman whose bottom was slapped in ‘fun’ by her boss has now been ordered to pay her former employer $5000 in costs in the case.” It seems that the NZ Employment Relations Authority had before it the case of a female employee who resigned after her former boss allegedly slapped her rear end. Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon apparently found that plaintiff was unreliable as a witness but nonetheless also found that there indeed was such a slap which was “inappropriate and should not be repeated,” but also that it was all part of a joke.
We concluded that “We have absolutely no idea what to say about this bizarre case.” Jose Ortal, business owner in the Eugene, Oregon area responded: “Because there isn’t one.”
Susan T. Musumeci, an HR professional in Glendale, Arizona:
“Holy crap! Glad I don’t work in New Zealand. And a woman made this decision?! I just hope no one “fun slaps” her behind any time soon.
And what was the reason for the payment of $5K? Cost of taking the claim to ERA? Wasn’t it enough that for some strange and bizarre rationale, lost on most logically thinking people, that the plaintiff was found to not have a reasonable case (yet also being found that the “joke” was inappropriate)? I don’t think Ms. Fitzgibbon had her thinking hat on that day.”
David Fieldman, a cross-cultural communications expert in Bejing, China:
“The NZ Authority, Anna Fitzgibbon, has lost her moral authority to pass judgment on anything.”
In another strange case, we posted that same day that a supervisor allegedly grabbed and squeezed his subordinate’s nipple, and took a towel and rubbed it on the employee’s crotch, according to the opinion of a federal appellate court. The employee sued, claiming hostile work environment, and claimed that the supervisor “received some perverse sexual gratification” from these acts.
Both were male, and the Court dismissed the case. We asked if the result might have been different if the victim had been female.
Jim Ferguson, an attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, had this comment:
“Never thought to add a standard “Don’t pinch another employee’s nipple” provision to form employee handbook….but maybe we should…..”