There are numerous court cases in the news right now concerning both bankruptcy law and employment law. But to keep this discussion more lively and help keep you all awake we will focus this module’s discussion on employment law.
Yeah, you probably never thought the words “staying awake” and “employment law” would ever go in the same sentence. But do a search on recent wrongful termination cases and you will see this is where things in the news can get juicy and seem more appropriate for a gossip column than for a law textbook. Unlike bankruptcy law cases that usually concern relatively mundane issues such as which creditor gets paid first, employment law cases often involve behind-the-scenes “dirty laundry” that the company will really rather not be made public.
One recent case involving current Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd resembles a soap opera. Hurd was the CEO for Hewlett Packard for several years, but in 2010 was investigated by HP’s Board of Directors regarding allegations of sexually harassing an independent contractor. The Board found no evidence of sexual harassment, but did find some minor discrepancies in his expense reports and became suspicious that not all of the money he spent in his dealings with this independent contractor were legitimate business expenses. The Board terminated him but gave him a whopping severance package worth over $50 million.
You would think that paying such a large severance package would be enough to prevent any future legal issues and end the drama. However, HP’s shareholders filed a lawsuit against HP’s Board for paying such a large severance package on the grounds that this payment was excessive and the Board was acting against the interest of shareholders. The judge dismissed the lawsuit saying that the money paid to Mark Hurd likely prevented him from filing a potentially embarrassing and costly wrongful termination lawsuit. But as an added touch of drama, HP’s Board decided to sue Hurd for accepting a position as an executive at Oracle on the grounds that he had signed a non-competition agreement in exchange for his large severance package.
For your first post, find an article or two about the Oracle case or another high profile employment law case that interests you. Share the link to the article with your classmates, and also discuss what concepts from the background materials on employment law this case helps illustrates. Other recent employment law cases in the high-tech world involve a wrongful termination case against Facebook and a gender bias lawsuit against Twitter. You are especially encouraged to find a more recent case that both will keep your classmates awake and help illustrate the concepts from the module, but there is also plenty to discuss regarding the Oracle case.