Here’s another thing to worry about when an employee testifies on behalf of someone suing the company: Retaliating against that employee by punishing him with additional or new work requirements or a poor evaluation may lead to federal criminal conspiracy charges.
Recent case: John Odum worked for Rayonier, bidding on timber for the company. When a third-party wood producer sued the company for alleged breach of contract, Odum was called as a witness and testified truthfully. The wood producer won a $1.2 million verdict.
Odum claimed that shortly after, company officials began a concerted effort to punish him for testifying. He said they demanded he move closer to work, gave him a poor evaluation and established unreasonable performance-improvement goals. Odum claimed the retaliation left him with major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He sued, alleging that company officials conspired to punish him for testifying.
A jury agreed. The company appealed, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reverse the verdict. It said that conspiring to retaliate against a witness by causing bodily injury to that person for testifying in an official proceeding is a federal crime—and that bodily injury can include impairing someone’s mental faculties. (Odum v. Rayonier, et al., No. 06-16251, 11th Cir., 2008)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Guard against SARS-related health, legal risks
- Be sure to document the effective date of all new disciplinary policies
- Discipline worker who complained of bias--if warranted and consistent with past practice
- Punish employees who 'occupy' in their spare time?