November 2014 Legal Trends Highlights Employment Law Results and Teacher Sexual Abuse Case.
In this issue of Legal Trends, we review two recent employment cases which the Hollander Law Offices have resolved and a significant sexual abuse case involving a former Winnetka teacher.
Hollander Law Offices Obtains $448,000 Arbitration Award in Employment Dispute.
In August, 2014, attorneys Eugene Hollander and Jonathon Hoeven obtained an arbitration award totaling $448,750 on behalf of an attorney who was discharged by his employer.
In April, 2005, TD Butzbaugh, a Michigan law school graduate, became employed by BCI Aircraft Leasing, Inc. as its General Counsel. The parties entered into a written employment agreement, providing for annual bonuses of up to $60,000 and severance pay in the event that he was terminated. Regarding the performance bonuses, the agreement provided that the employer was required to meet with Butzbaugh to discuss his performance prior to each bonus period.
When Butzbaugh started his employment, he found that the legal department was in shambles.
Shortly after he started, he discovered several problems with securities issues, corporate matters and employment disputes. By the end of the initial bonus period, December 31, 2005, Butzbaugh’s supervisors, Brian Hollnagel, the Chief Executive Officer, and Craig Papayanis, The Chief Financial Officer, had not met with him to review his performance.
Rather, the following February, in an e-mail which would foreshadow the difficulties Butzbaugh would continue to experience for the next six years, Papayanis told him that no bonus would be forthcoming.
BCI again failed to meet with its lawyer in 2006 regarding bonuses, and Butzbaugh started to e-mail Hollnagel about the delinquent payments. At the hearing, Butzbaugh testified that he sent at least 20 e-mails to the CEO complaining that he had never received a bonus.
In April, 2007, the FBI raided BCI’s headquarters. For the first time, BCI paid Butzbaugh a partial bonus, and the company paid him partial bonuses the following year. In March, 2010, Hollnagel was indicted on federal charges for wire fraud. In a subsequent indictment, BCI was also charged with wrongdoing.
On January 18, 2012, the criminal trial against the Defendants commenced. The government subpoenaed Butzbaugh on the same day. Immediately thereafter, Hollnagel and Papayanis stopped speaking with Butzbaugh.
At the arbitration hearing, Butzbaugh testified that he was “essentially treated like an outcast.” On February 8 and 9th, 2012, Butzbaugh testified as a government witness. He was the only BCI employee to testify against the Defendants.
On March 14, 2012, the jury convicted BCI and Hollnagel of wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Hollnagel was sentenced to 20 months of incarceration, was fined, and ordered to make restitution in the sum of $1.2 million.
On April 4, 2012, just three weeks after the guilty verdicts were returned, BCI terminated Butzbaugh’s employment. The company claimed that he failed to perform according to their expectations. Butzbaugh initiated an arbitration proceeding seeking his bonuses and claimed that the company retaliated against him for testifying against it.
The company argued that the employment agreement was not legally enforceable. It also claimed that Butzbaugh was not entitled to the bonuses as he failed to perform.
Following a five day hearing, the arbitrator awarded Butzbaugh the sum of $448,750 – $325,000 in performance bonuses, $82,500 for severance pay, and $41,250 for statutory damages on the severance award. The arbitrator declined to award Butzbaugh any relief on the retaliation claim, as Illinois does not generally permit a lawyer to sue an employer for retaliatory discharge. Illinois is one of three states in the country which does not recognize the tort in this context. BCI declined to make any settlement offer before the arbitration hearing.
Hollander Law Offices Settles Race Discrimination Case Against Rogers Auto Group.
Five former car salesmen settled their race discrimination case against Rogers Auto Group, a Bronzeville car dealership, in August, 2014, for a confidential sum.
Jermaine Thomas, Darius Fox, Dion Turner and Charles Barnett were African American salesmen of the dealership. Salesman Abdulaziz Tayeh was an Arabian American of Palestinian origin. Together, they claimed that management made numerous racial and ethnic epithets toward them, and that once they complained about it, they were retaliated against and fired.
Tayeh claimed that one Sales Manager called him Bin Laden and that other managers would make comments about him meeting with Al Qaeda. Tayeh also testified at his deposition that one manager drew a picture of him sitting on a camel with a tank exploding in the background.
The other salesmen claimed that they heard managers utter the n-word, boy, and referred to a group of African American salesmen as a “Black Panther” meeting. Another former African American salesman, who was not one of the Plaintiffs, provided a sworn Affidavit that he, too, heard the racist remarks.
On June 18, 2012, attorney Eugene Hollander wrote the dealership and requested his clients’personnel files. He also wrote that he was representing them in discrimination claims. Rogers fired Fox eight days later and Thomas a week after that. Tayeh and Barnett were similarly discharged shortly thereafter, and Turner quit because he could no longer handle the work atmosphere.
Rogers claimed that all of the salesmen had performance issues. However, after many depositions were taken in the case, the parties settled for a confidential sum.
Boy Scouts Face Potential Sex Abuse Claim Involving Former Winnetka Teacher.
William Bricker is a former Winnetka teacher residing in a quiet community in Michigan. Life, however, is anything but tranquil for this retiree. Bricker is accused of sexually abusing two boys in 1962 and 1985 at a retreat in Michigan. Bricker is 94 years old and is fighting extradition to Wyoming.
Separate and apart from the criminal proceedings, other victims have recently surfaced, claiming that they too were sexually abused by Bricker when he led Winnetka Boy Scout Troop 18. It is possible that one or more of these victims will file suit against the Boy Scouts of America.
The victims, though, will face a number of legal hurdles. First, they will have to establish that they are timely in bringing their claims. If the memories were not suppressed or repressed, the victims may be too late in asserting their claims. Second, the plaintiffs will have to demonstrate that the Boy Scouts were aware of Bricker’s propensities before they can be held liable. Third, to the extent that Bricker is under any kind of mental disability, the victims may not be allowed to testify as to what he allegedly did to them.