Name, Rank and Serial Number: A Good Policy, But You Have to Follow It
by Michael Fox
That's the message I would take from the latest MDV report. Credit Agricole was sued by a former employee, William Raedle, who alleged that his former supervisor cost him a job as a financial analyst when he told Raedle's potential employer that he had "mental issues" and what the BusinessWeekarticle refers to as "other disparaging remarks," including difficulty working with others. Credit Agricole Loses Trial Over Poor Job Reference.
The net result a $2.4 million dollar verdict from a New York federal jury that deliberated for just 5 hours following a week long trial.
Of course, if anyone knows that a verdict is not the same as money it is Mr. Raedle, as an earlier trial had also resulted in a favorable verdict, but it had been set aside by the District Judge, who said allowing it to stand would result in a "serious injustice".
It is unclear from the article exactly what the what the legal cause of action that was the basis of Raedle's complaint. Although in this situation it is often defamation, here it appears it could have been tortious interference with a potential business relationship.
What is also clear is that Credit Agricole, like many companies, had a policy that was only to confirm that a person had been employed there, without giving a performance evaluation.
Writing a policy is rarely the hard part; implementation, every day by every one, is. Some days, it is a million dollar problem.
Update 4.16.10: As a good illustration that a jury verdict is just a step along the way to what ultimately an employer will have to pay and what an employee and their attorney will actually receive, the trial court this week granted judgment as a matter of law to the defendants on the punitive damage award, striking $800,000. However, the other side of the story, the Court has not ruled on plaintiff's request for approximately $609,000 in costs and attorneys fees. I would be surprised if there are not other motions pending by the defendant that could ultimately impact other portions of the award as well. And, of course when the trial court finally enters its judgment, there's always the appeal. See $2.4M Award For Ex-Credit Agricole Analyst Trimmed, at Employment Law 360. ($)