I recently published an article in the American Bar Association’s TYL publication regarding the ethical implications of connecting with judges on social media – Hypothetically Speaking . . . What if I’m Friends with a Judge on Facebook? While TYL is geared toward lawyers in practice 10 years or less, the topic is of import to practitioners of all ages and experience levels.
Since the inception of social media over a decade ago, and the ever-increasing popularity of sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, states have adopted various rules on whether an attorney may maintain a social media connection or friendship with a judge. While most states permit lawyers to connect with judges, a few states (e.g., California and Florida) prohibit judges from making online connections with lawyers who may appear before the judge in court.
After the Sixth Circuit held that a Plaintiff need not make a threshold showing that they were compensated to make a prima facie showing that he is an employee for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), Bryson v. Middlefield Vol. Fire Dep’t, Inc., 656 F.3d 348, 353-54 (6th Cir. 2011), the question has remained: how broad are the conditions under which a volunteer be considered an employee, and thus have standing under Title VII? Last month, in Marie v. Am. Red Cross, No. 13-4052, slip op. (6th Cir. Nov. 14, 2014), the Court held that such conditions were very narrow indeed.
In Marie, two Plaintiff nuns had been long-term disaster relief volunteers with the First Capital District Chapter of the American Red Cross (“Red Cross”) and the Ross County (Ohio) Emergency Management Agency (“RCEMA”). Id., p. 2. They did not receive compensation or health insurance, but were eligible to receive workers compensation from both organizations and to participate in the Red Cross’s life insurance program. Id., pp. 3, 5. Despite receiving positive reviews, the nuns were denied promotions within the Red Cross which, while not entitling them to pay, would have given them increased responsibility. Id., pp. 3-4. The nuns were also terminated as volunteers with RCEMA after expressing dissatisfaction with the Executive Director’s leadership. Id., p. 5. In their lawsuit, the nuns alleged religious discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Id., p. 6.
The tort of interference with economic expectancy addresses the interference with a business relationship or expectancy that has not amounted to a contract. Many states recognize some form of this tort. Though the elements of this tort vary from state-to-state, the requirements generally include: (1) the existence of a valid business relationship or expectancy; (2) knowledge of this relationship or expectancy; (3) intentional interference causing or inducing a termination of this relationship or expectancy; and (4) resulting damages.
The Sixth Circuit recently addressed this business tort in Saab Automobile AB v. General Motors Company. No. 13-1899, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 20514 (6th Cir. Oct. 24, 2014). Saab Automobile AB (“Saab”) and its parent company filed suit against General Motors Company (“GM”) alleging that GM made public statements that interfered with a transaction Saab had with a potential investor, thereby driving Saab into bankruptcy. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Michigan’s dismissal of the case, finding that Saab had failed to establish a claim under Michigan law.