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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tampa Woman Considers Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims Against County Official

While this case may be bad for local government, it is worse for the politician. On Tuesday morning on the first page of the Tampa Bay Times, the paper reported “Porn Claims Get Her Fired.”  The sub headline reads “Hillsborough’s appraiser did send staffer porn, but he never discriminated against her, he says.”  Regardless of the outcome of this case, the ending for this politician will not be good.

Carolynn Filippone worked in the office of the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser, holding a couple of positions before eventually rising to the level of director of human resources.  She worked for the current Property Appraiser Rob Turner.  Approximately, two years ago she filed a Charge of Discrimination against Turner’s office with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) based on allegations of sexual harassment.  Specifically, Filippone alleged that Turner had sent her pornographic photos through the emails.  She also alleged that Turner had sent him a text that attached a photo of his genitals.  Think allegations against made by former FSU cowgirl against Brett Farve or former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Readers should understand that this is not a slam dunk case for Ms. Filippone.  In the legal field we like to make reference to tests or prongs.  The first prong in a harassment case is that the alleged harasser engaged in “unwelcome” conduct.  Although Turner denies the texting allegations, he does not deny that he sent her the porn.  He defends himself by saying that she was a willing participant.  There is no dispute that Turner and Filippone for a certain period were engaged in romantic relationship.  He says it lasted about a year and a half.  She says it lasted for years.  Somewhere along the way, it broke off, yet he thought it was okay to send her porn.

Again, Ms. Filippone opened a file with the EEOC approximately two years ago.  The EEOC closed the file in April indicating “The EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.”  At this point, Turner believed he won the case and on Monday, he fired Ms. Filippone.  In other words, he went from exercising poor judgment, with his use of the emails, to failing to consult wise counsel regarding the employment of Ms. Filippone.  Also, a story that was unknown to the public has become front page news for the last three days.

The dismissal of the EEOC case started a 90-day clock for Ms. Filippone.  She has until sometime in July to decide whether she wants to drop her case against Turner’s office or move forward with a lawsuit in state of federal court.  She is also represented by an excellent Tampa attorney, Steve Wenzel, who is guiding her through her decision.  By firing Ms. Filipponne, Turner unwittingly gave her a reason to move forward with a lawsuit.  To make matters worse, Ms. Filippone can add allegations of retaliation on top of her harassment claims.  I have not done a scientific study, but I always felt that a retaliation claim is always easier to prove than a discrimination or harassment claim.

In less than 30 seconds, these are the lessons for employers from the Turner case: 1) do not date your employees (think Glenn Close and Fatal Attraction); 2) do not send your employees porn; and 3) do not fire your employees when they are in the middle of deciding on whether they should sue you.  In other words, if you are an employer or manager, you need to be able to exercise good judgment and common sense.

Even if Turner’s office prevails in this case, irreparable damage has been done to him and any legacy he was hoping to achieve.  The Property Appraiser position is an elected office, which Turner held for 16 years.  This is an election year and although Turner vowed to seek reelection, the likelihood of an unknown defeating him has increased dramatically.

If you have questions about sexual harassment, feel free to call me, Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

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Church and State Law: Revising the 10 Commandments

I am not sure what to make of the case of the judge who told an attorney that a display may pass constitutional muster if edits were made to the Ten Commandments.   Parties were arguing before a federal judge about the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments display on school grounds.  In questioning the attorneys, the federal judge suggested that the monument be reduced six commandments, that way there will not be a mention of God.  In other words, this judge is asking us to take the white out (or hammer and chisel) to what God wrote.

One of the many news stories on the subject can be found here: Federal Judge Proposes Cutting 10 Commandments to 6

.As a side note, I would suggest that the 5th Commandment also be removed.  Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it Holy,directly or indirectly points to God.

 

Family Law: Tampa Judge Denies Mother and Step-Dad’s Request to Relocate Family to England

A couple of days ago, the Tampa Bay Times highlighted an interesting story regarding child custody and visitation.  This story begins with the divorce of a couple.  The children are in their early teens and living with their mom.  Although the mom has primary custody (or in today’s terminology majority time-sharing parent) the dad is very active in the lives of his children.

Next, the mom marries a man who is in the military.  This man turns out to be a really great step-dad.  He even has a cordial relationship with the children’s father.   Professionally, the step-dad is really good at what he does.  He is a Green Beret colonel assigned to Special Operations Command.  The Army wants to send him to a coveted assignment for three years in England.  There is one problem.  He will not go to England without his new family.

In Florida, when relocation becomes an issue, the first step is to see whether the parents can reach an agreement on the relocation.  In this case, the proposal advanced to the dad was the kids would spend school time in England with their mom and step-dad and summers with their dad.  Their dad was not willing to concede.  He felt that he would miss significant portions of his children’s lives.

Because the families could not agree, they took their dispute to court.  Some of the factors that a court would consider in a request for relocation include the following:  1) The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings and other significant people; 2) Any prior agreements between the parents; 3) The intent and good faith of each person in seeking or opposing the move; 4) Whether there’s a pattern of conduct by the relocating parent that’s meant to improve or harm the non-relocating parent’s relationship with the child; 5) The child’s age, maturity and needs; 6) How much moving, or not moving, will impact the child’s physical, educational and emotional development and relationships with both parents; 7) The quality of life, resources and opportunities available to the child and the relocating parent in the current and new locations; 8) Any alternative arrangements that would help the child maintain a relationship with the other parent; 9) Whether it’s possible and desirable for the other parent to relocate at the same time; 10) The financial impact and logistics of allowing or stopping the relocation; 11)The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child

Tampa Judge Daniel Sleet denied the petition to relocate.  Judge Sleet ruled that “The evidence demonstrates that both children are very comfortable in their present environment . . .The idea of moving to Europe may be appealing to adolescents, but the reality of uprooting to another continent can be traumatic.”

Confronted with this decision, the colonel declined the assignment to England.  You have to admire someone who decided to put his new family ahead of advancing his career.

While there are circumstances that will allow for the relocation of children with the majority time-sharing parent, this ruling highlights the difficulty involved in persuading a court that relocation could be in the best interest of a child.

Source: Judge Says SOCOM Officer Can’t Take Step-kids to London

 

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Research on Shared Parenting After Divorce

This is an interesting article on shared parenting after the divorce.  Whenever children are involved, two parents who in many cases dislike each other intensely, must work together to raise their children to become responsible adults.  This article discusses some research that our cousins across the pond have done on the subject matter.

Among other things the writer notes that the parties usually work out a parenting plan without having to take the case to trial. The writer continues to note that the individuals who end up going to trial are usually back in court at a later date.  In other words, their lack of cooperation during the course of the divorce litigation will most likely continue in the post-trial phase.

For the complete text of the post go to: Shared Parenting After the Divorce What the Research Says.

If you have specific questions on time-sharing, parenting plans, or other family law questions, be sure to call me (Rich) at (813) 413-2402.

 

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