Boys & Girls Club of the Monroe Area
A STATEMENT OF FACT
May 25, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
We have written this letter to communicate a Statement of Fact to clear up any confusion about a recent complaint that was filed regarding a wrongful termination complaint.
In December of 2012, Dr. Anthony Tricoli was appointed as the newest member of the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Club of the Monroe Area. In March of 2013 the organization’s Executive Director stepped down. At the same time the organization was experiencing great difficulty in making its payroll, and we knew we needed an experienced CEO to lead the organization at this time. The Board unanimously requested that Dr. Tricoli step into this lead and help the Board to turn its finances around.
Within short order, we came to realize that the weakness in budget/finance was directly linked to a general weakness in organization and operations. We were very happy that we had selected Anthony to be at the helm at this pivotal time in our history.
One of our communities most respected businesses offered to cover the cost of a professional assessment of the Club’s employee management practices and policies. A review such as this had never been completed in the history of this organization. The Board accepted this offer, and we contracted with the recommended agency, SESCO Management Consultants (from Knoxville) for a complete Human Resource Assessment.
The completed HR Assessment indicated a lack of accountability for all operational aspects of the organization, including but not limited to attendance, programs, grants and general performance of the employees. In addition, the employees riled up against Dr. Tricoli for SESCO’s suggestions to slowly begin to create a strategic plan, employee evaluations, a budgeting process which involved organizational units, job expectations, and generally any type of change whatsoever. The consultant said “I can only imagine the turmoil that simple business practices such as expecting regular hours and attendance creates. It is also my opinion that regardless of who sits in the seat of the Executive Director anyone attempting to instill change within the organization would be met with obstructive behaviors” “Employees are asked to think more….” “They don’t like the changes and what that entails, and [the employees] have directed their animosity towards anybody in a leadership role [Dr. Tricoli].” Indeed, Anthony received the brunt of the animosity of the former staff members because he was the person occupying the leadership seat at the time most of the change was needed. Anthony was the lightning rod for the staff’s complete resistance to the changes which were recommended by SESCO and which the Board directed Anthony to begin implementing.
As was indicated in the professional HR Assessment, the employees were not interested in any change to the organization whatsoever. As a Board, however, we had to gain control and direction of the organization. Following the direction of the Board and under the guidance of HR professionals, several very reasonable changes were made slowly, including changes to the budget, and as a result many personnel challenges cropped up immediately. Complaints were made regarding the reduction of credit cards from nine to two. Complaints were also levied regarding the need for a strategic plan, and creation of a budget that was segmented by organizational units.
What followed was an exodus of some employees who were not in favor of any change, a few of whom complained as they left the organization. Fortunately, all complaints have been appropriately addressed and no longer exist. Recently however, one last claim has surfaced from a former volunteer and her mother, and we are now in the process of responding to these frivolous and untrue charges.
As such, the organization now has pending litigation. This claim is against the organization, not Anthony Tricoli; and Dr. Tricoli is neither a defendant nor a named party in this claim. The Board arranged for a hearing of these complaints with all of the complainants. Unfortunately, none of the employees accepted to offer to meet with the Board to discuss their complaints. The complaints addressed operational decisions of the Board and which Anthony was directed to implement. Moreover, the Board has found absolutely no evidence to support the outlandish allegations contained in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is frivolous, and we have responded as such to the court. The Board of Directors believes this complaint is nothing more than a malicious attempt to harm the good name of Anthony Tricoli, and to attempt a deep pockets money grab by a former disgruntled volunteer and her mother.
Let us also be clear on this point: if there was any truth or question to any of the claims made in this complaint we would have removed Dr. Tricoli immediately from his oversight of a program where children and youth are in attendance.
The Board continues to maintain the highest vote of confidence, trust, and faith in Dr. Tricoli, and we continue to entrust him with the responsibility to lead the staff and programs of this organization. The Boys and Girls Club of the Monroe Area is financially in the best condition it has been in due to the leadership and business acumen of Dr. Tricoli. The fundraising challenges to our organization in a rural county in East Tennessee are great to say the least. Without Anthony’s leadership, the continued existence of the Club would be doubtful.
We, the undersigned (on behalf of all Board members) are happy to respond to any questions you might have regarding this most unfortunate situation which has occurred to an extraordinary organization and its leader.
Paul Willson Joseph H. Crabtree, Jr.
Chairman of the Board (current) and Incoming Chairman of the Board
"A female co-worker lodged a charge of sexual harassment against me. My supervisor informed me that a formal investigation into the charges would be commenced. Shocked by the allegation, I developed a deep sense of fear and overall sickness. I became so ill that I had to seek medical assistance. I requested administrative leave and was summarily denied.
"I was put through a 5-month investigation in which all of my co-workers and colleagues were questioned about what they may have observed or heard. The findings of the investigation yielded no substantiation to the allegations made by the female co-worker.
"Subsequently, I made a written request for reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act for a transfer from the work site. The employer denied the request, citing that 'a good faith personnel action was taken.'
"After being released from treatment by my doctor, I was ordered to return to work at the very same job and work site in the presence of my colleagues and the accuser. My physician had given me a medical preclusion from returning to the work site since, in his opinion, the work site is injurious to my health. I chose to follow my physician's advice and not return to the work site. I was then terminated from my employment because of 'my failure to return to work after being directed to do so.'
"Because this matter involves a public employer and I have no money, I am unable to locate an attorney to assist me in putting things right. As a further insult, the employer is issuing to prospective employers references containing statements which have been both ambiguous and go beyond stated policy. These statements have made it virtually impossible for me to obtain employment for the last three years.
"I realize that there is no room for sexual harassment in the workplace and the employer has an affirmative obligation to investigate all allegations or instances of sexual harassment. The accuser should be afforded all necessary protections, rights and remedies should the allegations be proven. However, where are the rights of the falsely accused? As it stands presently, the accused are afforded no rights, even if it's determined they're innocent of the allegations.
"Isn't it time for policy-makers to think this through and fix this problem for individuals who have experienced the hellishness I've been through? The mere allegation of sexual harassment can destroy careers, marriages and relationships with others. It can even leave you bankrupt and destitute."
A case in Wisconsin illustrates what can happen when an employer discharges a falsely accused employee for the wrong reasons. In the case of Mackenzie v. Miller Brewing Company:
A male manager told a female co-worker about a racy Seinfeld episode. In the story Jerry forgot the name of his date. Her named rhymed with a female body part. He eventually remembered that his date's name was Dolores.
The female co-worker "didn't get it," so the male showed her the body part in an anatomically correct dictionary. She later complained to his supervisor that she was offended. He apologized. Company attorneys questioned him and the company fired him two hours later.
At trial, the jury (10 women, 2 men) did not believe that the female co-worker was actually offended by the Seinfeld discussion. Instead, the jury found that she had made similar and more graphic references at work; and
She had learned that she would soon report to him and did not want to do that. Moreover, the supervisor that she convinced to fire McKenzie had earlier intentionally interfered with McKenzie's ability to obtain a promotion by telling upper management that he was not suitable for promotion, then lied to McKenzie about it.
The jury based its award on some unique features of Wisconsin law and the facts of this particular case. However, the resulting large verdict received significant media coverage. As a result, careful employers believe that they should respect the rights of the accused.
What happens if the accusation is false?
Employers can take no corrective action against the accused and can even discipline the complainant for a false complaint. However, the employer runs the risk that, if the accusation was true, the victim of the harassment can take it to court. Thus, employers often take no chances. They opt for firing the accused, who has limited rights under federal and state laws to challenge their termination.
Do the Wrongfully Accused have Any Rights?
Not directly. An employer is free to terminate an employee for no reason or even a bad reason, so long as it is not a reason prohibited by law. Discharging an employee based on a suspicion of improper behavior is not unlawful, even if the suspicion is not correct. Thus, the law does not prohibit an employer from taking the easy way out of a difficult situation by terminating the accused.
However, if the real reason for the discharge is unlawful, covering up the real reason with a false accusation of harassment can lead to employer liability.
What should careful employers do to respect the rights of the accused?
First, someone accused of workplace misbehavior has the same rights as anyone else to be free from discrimination. An employer thus cannot punish the accused more harshly than someone outside of the accused's protected class. In other words, if the accused is a 50-year-old manager and the owner has condoned the same or similar behavior by a younger member of management, the owner runs the risk of an age discrimination suit if it treat the 50-year-old manager more harshly.
Second, conduct a thorough investigation. An employer should not conduct a "Kangaroo Court" unless it wants a jury second guessing what the employer might have found if it had looked at all of the facts.
Third, an employer should act on a good-faith belief that the allegations are true before taking adverse employment action. If the employer does not believe that the accusation is true, a jury probably will not believe it either. Since a jury can base a finding of discrimination or retaliation on proof that an employer's stated reason for termination is false, a false accusation can lead to discrimination or retaliation liability.
Fourth, an employer may not defame an employee. Although employers generally have a defense against defamation suits for disclosing an employee's performance related information, the employer can lose that defense by maliciously publishing false information or by disclosing the false information to people who do not "need to know" the results of the investigation.
Fifth, an employer cannot conduct a criminal background check using an outside agency without an employee's prior consent to the background check. Similarly, an employer cannot take action on a background check by by an outside agency before it notifies the employee of the result of the investigation. The right to consent to an investigation and to see the results of the investigation do not, however, apply to investigations conducted in-house by the employer or its attorney.
What should I do if I am wrongfully accused of harassment?
We suggest that you:
What's the bottom line? Will the laws protect me against a wrongful accusation?
Not always. At best, most safeguards against wrongful accusation are procedural or offer little actual protection.