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How a boss’s Kwik-E-Mart trip cost $100K

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employment law risks don’t disappear the minute your managers leave the building at the day’s end. Those risks follow managers around constantly.

That’s why you should make clear to supervisors that they should never discuss personnel matters outside the workplace—even at the corner Kwik-E-Mart.

Recent case: Terryn Risk, a part-time police officer, was a very religious person. But when he started wearing a small cross on his uniform lapel, his supervisor told him to remove it.

Soon after, the police department decided to consolidate several part-time positions to save money.

About that time, the supervisor had a conversation with a convenience store clerk about his part-time officers. The clerk, who knew all the officers from their routine patrols, recommended that three officers, including Risk, should keep their jobs. Apparently, the supervisor then said he wasn’t planning to retain Risk because his religion kept him from working on Sundays. 

Risk lost his job. When word got back to Risk about his supervisor’s comments, he sued for religious bias. A jury awarded him $100,000 after hearing the clerk’s testimony. (Risk v. Burgettstown Borough, No. 08-4746, 3rd Cir., 2010)

Note: Police departments are within their rights to ask officers to remove religious insignia. But, they need to do so correctly, by explaining that such symbols may be intimidating and may imply that the government sanctions a particular religion.

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