Jostens “Bullying” Case Must Proceed to Trial
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (September 30, 2016) – Chief Judge John Tunhiem of the Minnesota Federal vistrict Court this week ordered Jostens to face trial on claims raised by former Senior Creative Director Roger Becker, who was terminated in June 2014 after complaining that his supervisor, Jostens Chief Marketing Officer Ann Carr subjected him to sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. Carr was hired at Jostens in March 2014 and is the sister-in-law of CEO Charles Mooty. Becker alleges that once Carr assumed her position, she terrorized him and scores of other employees and managers with her abusive and threatening style of management, to the point where the Jostens workplace became intolerable. He alleges that he and two other management-level employees each complained about Carr and sought the assistance of Human Resources. Each of their terminations followed shortly thereafter.
The other management-level employees were initially plaintiffs with Becker in this case, but have settled their claims with Jostens for terms subject to strict confidentiality. Those employees are expected to be called as supportive witnesses at Becker’s trial, according to Larry Schaefer at Schaefer Halleen, lead counsel for Becker.
“It’s very rare to find multiple senior managers who all made similar complaints and then were terminated with no real investigation into the complaints,” explained Schaefer. “Mr. Becker is extremely concerned that by condoning Ms. Carr’s abusive treatment of her subordinates by firing those courageous enough to complain, Jostens is turning a blind eye to the single most difficult legal issue its substantial client base faces – addressing bullying in the workplace and in the schools where Jostens does business” stressed Schaefer. According to Becker, “being related to the CEO doesn’t give an executive like Ms. Carr license to explode verbally to her subordinates, threaten them daily, make derogatory references to their sexuality, or otherwise treat them like dirt.” Adds Becker: “we were not alone in raising serious workplace concerns about Ms. Carr’s abuse. To not address these complaints and instead make excuses to fire the managers standing up for their workplace rights to be free from harassment is wrong.” Concludes Schaefer: “We expect this trial to expose an executive culture that not only condoned Ms. Carr’s illegal conduct, but rid the Jostens workplace of anyone who dared challenge this abuse and seek to enforce their rights to work in an environment where bullying is not tolerated.”
In his order (attached hereto) Chief Judge Tunhiem found that Becker’s claims of unlawful retaliation under the Minnesota Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act must proceed to trial. The Chief Judge found that Becker had offered sufficient evidence to present his case to a jury that he was wrongfully terminated after engaging in the protected conduct of complaining about Carr “bur[rying Becker’s] face in her breasts” and making sexual comments about Becker and “wiggl[ing] her lips in a manner Becker perceived as being sexual, among other serious instances of sexual misbehavior by Carr. See Memorandum Opinion and Order at p. 15. Judge Tunhiem found that Becker had presented sufficient evidence that Becker’s complaints about Carr caused his termination, citing the fact that Becker was terminated only three weeks after making a serious complaint about Carr, the fact that Becker had received a significant promotion only three months before his termination, and evidence that CEO Charles Mooty – Carr’s brother-in-law – was involved in the termination decision despite specific internal Jostens’ policies which prohibited nepotism in employment decisions. See Memorandum Opinion and Order at p. 21-22.
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