You be the judge: Did employer have proof that employee lied?
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You be the judge: Did employer have proof that employee lied?

Based on the facts presented below, how do you think the court ruled on this employment law case?

“Isn’t it true that you fired my client because of his national origin?” plaintiff’s attorney Justin Case asked supervisor Harlan Lamont.

“I have no bias against people of Mexican origin,” Harlan said. “But I do have one against lies. Jorge Tavarez told me he was going to Mexico to visit his sick mother in Juarez. But as it turned out, he was hundreds of miles away, in Laredo, where he had no legitimate reason to be – not when he was on a leave we granted him for compassionate family purposes.”

“How do you know Mr. Tavarez was in Laredo?” Case asked.

“Cell phone records,” Harlan said.

“Why did you check phone records?” the lawyer asked. “Did you have some reason to do so?”

“Yes,” Harlan said. “Jorge was two days late returning from his leave, and his explanation seemed inconsistent to me. He’d been carrying his company cell phone, so I decided to check with the phone company and see where he might have made calls from.”

“And what did you learn when you checked?” the lawyer asked.

“I had my assistant do the checking,” Harlan said. “She got records that showed the Laredo calls.”

“But you did not get any actual records from the phone company, correct?” Case asked. “Your assistant got a few e-mails from a phone company employee,” the lawyer went on. “And they don’t prove anything about Mr. Tavarez’s whereabouts at the time.”

“OF course they do,” Harlan insisted. “They show he made calls from Laredo.”

“Your honor,” the lawyer said, turning to the judge, “I am holding in my hands copies of the only two e-mails that reference Laredo. One is from Mr. Lamont’s assistant, and it asks for the location of – I’m reading here – ‘Tower TX613 BB Loop NPI.’

“The other appears to be a response from a phone company employee. Again I’m reading: ‘Laredo, TX, is location. Pat.’

“If this is supposed to be proof that my client lied about his true whereabouts, it’s awfully thin,” the lawyer concluded.

Harlan’s company asked the judge to dismiss Jorge’s lawsuit, arguing that they were within their rights to fire him for lying.

Did Harlan’s company succeed in getting Jorge’s lawsuit dismissed?

How the court ruled

No. The judge said the documents provided by Harlan and his assistant didn’t prove that Jorge had lied about his whereabouts while on leave. Harlan’s readiness to rely on such sketchy documentation to fire Jorge suggested he was looking for a “gotcha” – and his real reason could be discriminatory, the judge said. Jorge would get a chance to prove that to a jury.

Cite: Alvarado v. Gorton, No. L-07-140, S.D. Tex., 4/26/11.

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