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Scenario I: Employment LawCarole Smith, an Apostolic Christian, worked as sales associate at Nickels Department Store. One afternoon, during a break, Smith participated in a conversation about God, homosexuality, and same-sex marriages. The next day, an employee told the manager that Smith made inappropriate comments about gays to Casey, a Nickels employee who was gay. Over the next five weeks, Nickels investigated the incident by interviewing and obtaining statements from employees who were present during the conversation. In his statement, Casey reported that Smith pointed her finger and said that God does not accept gays, that gays should not be allowed to marry or have children, and that they will burn in hell. Three employees confirmed Smith’s statements.Nickels terminated Smith’s employment after concluding she had engaged in serious harassment in violation of its Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy. This policy, of which Smith was aware, prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment based on an individual’s status, including sexual orientation, and provides that employees who violate the policy will receive “coaching and/or other discipline, up to and including termination.” Nickels has “zero tolerance” for harassment “regardless of whether such conduct rises to the level of unlawful discrimination or harassment” and treats serious harassment as gross misconduct and grounds for immediate termination.Smith filed suit, alleging her termination for stating that gays should not marry and will go to hell—a belief that she maintains is an aspect of her Apostolic Christian faith—constitutes unlawful discrimination under Title VII. Is she correct?
If Smith posted the same information on her Facebook page but omitted references to the specific employee, would the outcome of her lawsuit for wrongful termination change?
Agency, Employment and TortsBrenda Byars, on her way to a business meeting and in a hurry, stopped at a Radio Shack to pick up a new car charger for her smartphone. There was a long line at one of the checkout counters, but a cashier, Phyllis Richmond, opened another counter and began loading the cash drawer. Byars told Richmond that she was in a hurry and asked Richmond to work faster. Instead, Richmond slowed her pace. At this point, Byars hit Richmond.It is not clear whether Byars hit Richmond intentionally or, in an attempt to retrieve the car charger, hit her inadvertently. In response, Richmond grabbed Byars by the hair and hit her repeatedly in the back of the head, while Byars screamed for help. Management personnel separated the two women and questioned them about the incident. Richmond was terminated immediately for violating the store’s no-fighting policy. Byars sued Radio Shack, alleging that the store was liable for the tort (assault and battery) committed by its employee.Under what doctrine might Radio Shack be held liable for the tort committed by Richmond?
What is the key factor in determining whether Radio Shack is liable under this doctrine?
How is Radio Shack’s potential liability affected by whether Richmond’s behavior constituted an intentional tort or a tort of negligence?
Suppose that when Richmond applied for the job at Radio Shack, she disclosed in her application that she had previously been convicted of felony assault and battery. Nevertheless, Radio Shack hired Richmond as a cashier. How might this fact affect Radio Shack’s liability for Richmond’s actions?