Legal

Please, Please, Please Be Careful What you Email

By Jon Hyman

Mar. 25, 2014

Darren Wyss claims that his former employer, Compact Industries, demoted him on the basis of his gender and replaced him with a female. Wyss’s immediate supervisor was Tracey Brown, one of the company’s owners, and the sister of Michael Brown, another owner. After Wyss’s demotion, Michael emailed his sister, “You demoted Darren without telling me? … Darren is a good worker, too bad he’s male.”

 
Based on that email, the court — in Wyss v. Compact Indus. (S.D. Ohio 3/12/14) — had little trouble denying the company’s motion to dismiss the sex discrimination lawsuit.

It is reasonable to infer that Michael Brown knew of his sister’s motive for demoting Wyss and was referring to that motive in this email. This plausibly suggests that the decision to demote Wyss, who was otherwise a “good worker,” was motivated by Tracey’s intent to discriminate against men. 

Nothing good comes from putting statements like “too bad he’s male” in emails, or text messages, or voice mails, or any other form of communication. Those words should never leave your lips, let alone flow forth from your fingers in anything typed. Michael Brown may have a logical, non-discriminatory explanation for his statement … or at least he better before he gives his deposition. Even with an explanation, however, his misstep makes his company’s case that much more difficult. Do your damndest to avoid the same miscue.
 
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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