ILNews

Judge: Love is loser in nonfraternization policy

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Although the United Parcel Service Inc. came out as winners in a discrimination case in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, love and marriage were deemed the losers by the appellate judges.

In Gerald C. Ellis v. United Parcel Service Inc., No. 07-2811, Ellis filed a discrimination claim against UPS after he was fired for fraternizing with a fellow employee. Ellis, a manager who is African-American, claimed he was fired after his supervisors discovered he was dating and eventually married a white woman who worked in UPS' phone center.

UPS has a strict nonfraternization policy, which forbids managers from having a romantic relationship with any hourly employee.

Despite this policy, Judge Terence Evans noted many employees dated each other and love must have been in the air at UPS because Ellis and Glenda Greathouse started dating and married after four years. They kept their relationship a secret from the company, but eventually Ellis' direct supervisor Angela Wade, who is African-American, learned about their relationship. Wade reported the relationship, and Ellis met with human resources manager Kenny Walker, also African-American. Walker explained the nonfraternization policy to Ellis and said the two would have to break up or one would have to quit.

Ellis didn't end the relationship and the two married a little more than a year later. Later, the company discovered Ellis did not break up with Greathouse, and Walker fired Ellis for violating the policy and for dishonesty after he refused to resign.

In his appeal, Ellis didn't present evidence to show he was fired for having an interracial relationship with another employee, wrote Judge Evans. The evidence he produced of multiple intraracial relationships being treated more favorably were not subject to the same decision makers as Ellis when they allegedly violated company policy by fraternizing. His failure to establish that any other similarly situated manager in an intraracial relationship was treated more favorably doomed his discrimination claim, the judge wrote.

Judge Evans emphasized the court's decision to affirm summary judgment in favor of UPS shouldn't be construed as an endorsement of the nonfraternization policy at UPS. The judge went on to note that these days, more and more people are meeting significant others at work because that is where they spend most of their time. Also, Ellis was a good employee and had a long work history with UPS, and that he met his future wife while at work makes for a fairly nice story, he wrote.

"Although UPS, for the reasons we have stated, comes out on top in this case, love and marriage are the losers. Something just doesn't seem quite right about that," Judge Evans wrote.
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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