Exactly what does a federal lawsuit look like? Below is a copy of the lawsuit that Carolyn Filippone filed against Rob Turner in his official capacity as the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser. The allegations are short, simple and to the point.
Tag Archives: Sexual Harassment
It looks like Hillsborough Property Appraiser, Rob Turner, has battles on two fronts. He is seeking another term as the County Property Appraiser and given the stories that recently appeared in the local papers, Mr. Turner will have an uphill battle. See Storms, Turner at Bell Shoals Baptist for First Election Square Off. Second, a week ago Carolyn Filippone filed a retaliation lawsuit against Mr. Turner’s office.
There is little doubt that Mr. Turner is regretting his decision to fire Ms. Filippone. I previously noted that there was no question that Ms. Filippone would file suit against Mr. Turner. The only real question was when the suit would be filed. As previously noted, Ms. Fillippone brought an EEOC charge against Mr. Turner alleging sexual harassment. Among other things, Mr. Turner confessed to sending porn to Ms. Fillippone. The EEOC dismissed Ms. Fillippone’s charge in April 2012. For some reason Mr. Turner believed that the EEOC dismissal gave him the right to fire Ms. Fillippone without worrying about legal exposure. Mr. Turner failed to understand that the EEOC dismissal letter initiated a 90-day clock in which Ms. Filippone may file a lawsuit in state or federal court. Mr. Turner also did not understand that the EEOC dismisses approximately 99.99% of the discrimination charges that cross their desk and tell the employee to find an attorney and file a lawsuit.
If he did not fire her, there is a good chance that she would have allowed the 90 day clock to run without filing suit. Although Mr. Turner confessed to sending Ms. Filippone porn, she still had hurdles to overcome in order to prove a case for sexual harassment. Mr. Turner committed the quintessential error by terminating Ms. Filippone’s employment. Simply stated, retaliation cases are easier to prove than harassment cases. A plaintiff in a retaliation case does not have to show that she would have prevailed in the harassment case. Mr. Turner should have consulted his attorneys before making the decision to fire Ms. Filippone. I doubt the County is ready to deal with yet another costly employment case following the misconduct of one of its officials.
For specific questions on Labor and Employment Law, please call me, Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.
Bradford & Bradford’s practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law.
In my previous post, I noted that Ms. Carolyn Filoppone is considering a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office and Rob Turner. The filing of the lawsuit appears imminent. In addition to working with Steve Wenzel, Ms. Filoppone has added Chris Jayson to her legal team. See Woman Considers Wrongful Termination Suit Against Rob Turner, Who Sent Her Porn.
The County should not overlook the price tag of defending Kevin White a few years back and govern itself accordingly. The taxpayers will not be happy if another $500,000 is expended in defending Mr. Turner and his office.
Bradford & Bradford practices in the areas of Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Family Law, Employment Law and General Civil Litigation. If you have questions any of these areas, feel free to call at (813) 413-2402.
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.
A Tampa man filed a lawsuit against a local International House of Pancakes or IHOP for damages related to sexual harassment. He claimed that while working at IHOP as a cook, a female co-worker grabbed his genitals. He further claimed that the restaurant manager witnessed the incident. Additionally, he claimed that his co-worker grabbed him on one other occasion. His lawsuit was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act. In the lawsuit, he sought compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering and humiliation.
At the close of discovery, the restaurant moved for summary judgment. Among other things, IHOP argued that the harassment was not sufficiently severe and pervasive to support a claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment. IHOP also argued that even if the harassment were severe and pervasive, it had taken prompt remedial action when it learned of the harassment.
The Court disagreed and denied the motion for summary judgment. The Court ruled that
Although the frequency of the conduct was only twice, the severity of the conduct is far greater. The conduct in this case was physically threatening and humiliating, unlike the myriad of cases that involve “brushing” or “touching.” Grabbing the crotch area of either sex certainly conveys a message that extends beyond workplace crudity, which, in large part under the case law, requires one to ignore.
See Cobb v. Sunshine Restaurants. The Court further ruled that a fact issue existed as to whether the restaurant exercised reasonable care and corrected the sexually harassing behavior in a timely manner, thus avoiding vicarious liability. Because the Court denied summary judgment, the employee could have presented his case to a jury.
This case highlights a number of lessons for employers. Employers must have an anti-harassment policy in place that allows employees to report instances of harassment. Next, employers must ensure that all employees are aware of the policy. Also, management must know how to respond to allegations of harassment and investigations must be well documented.
Any employee who feels that he/she is being harassed should be familiar with the company policy and know who to contact to stop the harassment. If you have any questions about harassment or other employment law issues, give me a call at (813) 413-2402. Bradford & Bradford’s practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law.