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When Confidentiality Means Stay Off Facebook

Many people may have caught this story from Yahoo headlines, Google News, or even on Twitter.  Every attorney and litigant should learn from the mistakes of Patrick Snay.

Patrick Snay brought discrimination and retaliation claims against Gulliver Schools where he served as headmaster until his contract was not renewed.  Gulliver Schools and Snay reached a confidential settlement agreement.  Pursuant to this agreement, $10,000 went to Snay as back pay, $80,000 went to Snay via 1099 (probably compensatory damages), and $60,000 went to Snay’s attorneys.  The confidentiality provision stated that Snay would not disclose the terms of the settlement to anyone besides his wife, attorneys or other professional advisers.    This common language in the settlement agreement became a major stumbling block for Snay.  Snay has a college-age daughter who also previously attended Gulliver.  Snay and his wife shared with their daughter that the case was settled and they were happy with the result.  One would think this is harmless.  Of course, Snay would tell his wife and his daughter is part of the family.  The daughter who apparently is quite popular with 1200 friends shared her parents’ good fortune on Facebook by typing:

Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.  SUCK IT.

It only took Gulliver four days to contact Snay and tell him that he was in breach of the agreement.

Gulliver paid Snay’s attorneys the $60,000 mentioned above.  With respect to the $80,000, Gulliver argued that Snay was in breach and withheld the funds.  Snay sought to enforce the settlement and he prevailed before the trial court.  The trial judge ruled that neither Snay’s comments to his daughter nor his daughter’s Facebook comments constituted a breach of the confidentiality agreement.   Gulliver could have left things alone, written a check and let the Snay family go on vacation.  Instead, Gulliver appealed.

The appellate court ruled in Gulliver’s favor reversing the decision of the trial court.  The appellate court noted that absent evidence that the parties intended any special meaning to the terms of the contract, the unambiguous language is to be given a realistic interpretation based on the plain, everyday meaning conveyed by the words.  The court then noted that neither Snay nor his wife could disclose to anyone, except their lawyers or other professionals, the terms of the agreement.  The court ruled that Snay’s conversation with his daughter stating that “it was settled and we are happy with the results” established a breach of the confidentiality provision.   The court added that Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do.

Thus, another example of loose lips sinking ships.  This decision should serve as a warning that attorneys must advise their clients to honor the terms of a confidentiality agreement.  In an ordinary sense, certainly the idea of discussing the matter with other family members would seem harmless.  This case shows that simple words such as “we settled” and “we are happy” are sufficient to lead to a breach of the agreement.   This teachers that close attention needs to be paid to familiar provisions of the settlement agreement.    Even the simple statement, “we are happy” could lead to the forfeiture of thousands of dollars.  Victory laps following the signing of a settlement agreement are never a good idea.

 

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Is He Ludacris? Rapper Initiates Legal Action to Gain Custody of His Child

It looks like rapper Ludacris is fighting to gain custody of his 2 month old daughter. In court papers Ludacris assertd that he is a “fit and capable parent” and should get full physical custody of the daughter. In support of his argument, Ludacris points out that he has been “an active father” to his 12-year old daughter.

At this point, some may have that skeptical grin, thinking Ludacris is seeking custody to get out of paying child support. By the way, the last time Ludacris was in court, the judge awarded Tamika Fuller a/k/a Ludacris’ baby mama, $7,000 in child support. Put yourself in his position. Do you blame him for trying to get custody of the child?

Realistically, there are men out there who want to play a role in a child’s life, although the child may have been born outside of wedlock. I have even seen a grown man cry because he got in an argument with a girl friend and she denied him access to his child. When that happens, the father will need to go to court to establish a time sharing plan or visitation schedule. This is the best way for the father to ensure that he has access to the child. Unfortunately, without a court order the father of a child born outside of wedlock has very few rights. To preserve those rights, the father will need to initiate a paternity action.

Ludacris will not gain full custody of his 2-month old daughter. Depending on Georgia law, the judge may establish a time sharing plan that will be fair to him and Ms. Fuller. More importantly, the judge’s ruling will be in the best interests of their 2-month old daughter.   Also, Ludacris’ child support obligation probably will not go away.

While Ludacris is a well-known celebrity, cases similar to his occur all the time. If you have questions regarding visitation, time sharing, or parenting plans, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402 to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.

 
 

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High School Terminates Woman Over Facebook Photo

Boyfriend Who Appeared in Picture Remains Employed

While surfing through the news this evening, I came across an interesting story that may form the basis for a lawsuit.  A man and woman were employed by a high school in Pocatello, Idaho.  (Am I the only one thinking of the B-52s right about now-one).  At this point, I should use caution in my grammar.  The man is employed by Pocatello High School.  The woman was employed by the Pocatello High School.  The man coached the football team, over the years won more than a few championships, and is in the high school football coach hall of fame.  The woman was the coach of the woman’s basketball team.  They are engaged to one another and during a family gathering over the summer someone took a photograph in which the man is holding the woman’s breast.  The photo was posted on the woman’s Facebook page.  Within 24 hours, the woman removed the photo from her page.  Nevertheless, the damage was done.  The school fired the woman and reprimanded the man.  While the man was guilty of holding, the school maintained that the woman had engaged in immoral behavior.  The school is not criticizing the woman for the picture.   Rather, it terminated her for posting the photograph on Facebook.

 

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Despite the public outrage surrounding the story, the school is asserting that it made the right decision to fire the woman and reprimand the man.   A grievance of the woman’s dismissal is pending.

It is not clear whether the woman would prevail in a discrimination case.  From the comments that I have read, if this case were submitted to the court of public opinion, Pocatello High School would be in big trouble.  In cyberspace, everyone has an opinion and I comments supporting the high school are few and far between.

Sex or gender discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of that person’s sex.  The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.  If you need to talk to a labor and employment attorney about discrimination or wrongful termination, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

 
 

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Bradford & Bradford, Attorneys at Law – Call (813) 413-2402

Call us at (813) 413-2402

We are Richard L. Bradford and Patricia W. Bradford, attorneys practicing in the areas of Labor and Employment Law, Civil Litigation, Marital and Family Law, Wills and Trusts, Estate Planning, End of Life Planning and Probate Law.

Both graduates of the Florida State University College of Law,  we founded our firm in 2006 to provide quality legal services with a personal touch. We began Bradford & Bradford, P.A. with a desire to establish a neighborhood law firm to serve the needs of working families, young professional, business owners and individuals in the Brandon area.  Besides Brandon, we serve clients throughout Hillsborough and Polk Counties.

We began Bradford & Bradford, P.A. with a desire to provide the highest quality legal services with a hometown touch.  We remain committed to our vision by providing expert legal services to Brandon and the surrounding communities.  Let us help you with your legal needs today.

 

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Child Support: Are You a Florida Deadbeat Dad

This morning I received a headline about a “Florida Deadbeat Dad.”  I thought it was about child support, but as I read the article I realized it was a addressing certain issues regarding Florida politics.  I really do not want to get into political issues on this forum. There are a lot of political bloggers who can provide you with their opinion on Florida politics.  Instead, I want to address the legal implications of being labeled deadbeat dad.

The more common use of the label appears in child support cases.  Men, you do not want to wear that title.  You may be a great dad, but if you are not paying your child support, no matter what your opinion of your child’s mom may be, your child needs her/his child support.  (occasionally this apply to mothers who have to pay child support, but more times than not it applies to the fathers).

That said, there are instances where circumstances may cause a drop in income and you can no longer pay child support in the amount set by the court.  For example, a few years ago there was a man who was considered a superstar in the NFL.  Some may even have viewed him as a prima donna.  While I am not naming names, he changed his name to a number.   During the 2012 season no longer playing football and the multimillionaire, could no longer pay child support.  (See Baby Mama on Missed Child Support).

Similar to the football player, the current state of the economy has caused many men who had high 5-figure or even 6 figure incomes to be out of work or have their incomes cut in half.  They either stop paying child support or pay substantially less child support.  Unfortunately, no one tells them what they need to do.  The courts do not provide guidance.  Child Support Enforcement will not help.  In fact in many cases, the mothers will come after these men and try to compel payment.  A wide range of options are available to judges in these enforcement proceedings – pay the child support by a certain date, pay the mother’s attorneys’ fees, suspension of the father’s driver’s license, or even incarceration.

In situations like these, fathers need to seek a modification.  Further, the best thing for fathers in these cases is to seek legal counsel.  Again, no one is helping the fathers (or the mother if she has the child support obligation).    Even if a father tries to do it himself, a mistake in the court filing will delay the process and the child support obligation will continue to add up.  Legal counsel will make sure that the correct procedures are followed and the child support reduced consistent with your income.

If you have experienced a significant change in circumstances, Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402 can guide you through the proper legal procedures to modify your child support payments accordingly, as well as answer other family law questions.

 

 

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Race Discrimination Claims Against Paula Deen Dismissed

This probably will not be my last post on the Paula Deen case.  In an interesting, if not predictable, development, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore dismissed the racial discrimination portion of Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit.

In case you missed it, the Paula Deen story was a hot topic in the news and internet during June and July. In the spring of 2012, a former manager at one of Deen’s restaurants brought a lawsuit against the restaurant, Paula Deen and her brother Bubba.  Jackson alleged that she was the victim of sexual harassment by Bubba.  In addition to harassment claims, Jackson, who is white, brought claims of racial discrimination against the defendants who allegedly made racial slurs about African Americans.  Fast forward to May 2013, and Paula Deen has her deposition taken.  Paula Deen admits using the “N-word” in the past, approximately 25-30 years ago.  She also admits that jokes were told at work – black jokes, Jewish jokes, redneck jokes.  To be fair to Paula, there was no indication that she told the jokes.  See Paula’s deposition transcript here.

Sometime in June 2013, Deen’s deposition transcript hits the press.  Many labeled Paula Deen a racist and threatened to boycott the Food Network.  The Food Network decided not to renew Deen’s contract, which was due to expire June 30, 2013.  Deen’s fans are upset and have decided to boycott the Food Network.  Later, Wal Mart released Paula Deen and K-Mart, and Smithfield Foods, Home Depot, etc. etc. all released Paula Deen.    Some guess that the impact of these severed relationships is in the neighborhood of $12 million.  By the way, in the last week of June, Paula Deen was bigger news than the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Proposition 8.

When Jackson filed her lawsuit it was reported that she was seeking $1.2 million.  Understand that I am not trying to play Monday morning QB, but if Deen’s attorneys had convinced her to settle for $750-900k, she probably would not have lost her $12 million empire.  Remember this all started when Jackson quit because she alleged sexual harassment by Bubba.  Moreover, the sexual harassment claim is viable.  Paula testified that Bubba would look at porn at work.   Because the case did not settle, Deen’s deposition became public, Deen has been labeled a racist, and Corporate America has decided to distance itself from her.

Ironically, the judge dismissed the race discrimination case.  Near the end of a twenty page decision on race discrimination, Judge Moore ruled:

Plaintiff is not an aggrieved party under Title VII because her interests are not arguably sought to be protected by that statute.  At best, Plaintiff is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.  There are no allegations that Defendant Hier’s racially offensive comments were either directed toward Plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her.

See Judge Moore’s August 12, Order.

For whatever its worth, the lawyers on both sides are working very hard on this case.   There is little doubt that the next move by either side will generate further interest in the Paula Deen saga.

If you have questions about employment discrimination or labor and employment law, give Rich Bradford a call at (813) 413-2402.

Legal Stuff:   The information on this blog is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult with an attorney if you have specific legal questions. Hiring an attorney is an important, personal decision which should not be based solely on advertisements. Before you decide, contact us and we will send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.

 

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Preachers Being Prosecuted for Preaching

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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