Joseph Canada, an employee of Samuel Grossi & Sons, was fired upon discovering that he had used the company’s phone to solicit prostitution services during office hours. Gross behavior could affect work and destroy the reputation of the company because it was immoral and indecent (Hyman, 2022).
However, Canada filed a lawsuit alleging that his employers were retaliating against him for filing a previous case on discrimination against Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Particularly, Canada claimed that he would not be granted the FMLA leave despite having backache problems (Joseph Canada, Appellant, v. Samuel Grossi & Sons, Inc). He, however, got it from another employee, but while he was away, the employer broke into his drawer and found the text messages from one year ago. The district court granted the employer summary judgment, but the Third Circuit partly reversed. The way the texts were obtained shows that Canada was a victim of retaliation.
The case is a typical example of the saying that two wrongs cannot equate to a right. The company was disappointed that their employee sued them for discrimination after they refused to give him a leaf to treat his backache. The decision of Grossi to search Canada’s locker while he was away and find a reason to fault him for indecency was premeditated and biased. Notably, the rest of the employees did not receive similar scrutiny on their phones (Joseph Canada, Appellant, v. Samuel Grossi & Sons, Inc). The implication is that the employers were targeting Canada and looking for any information that they could use to either fire him or terminate his job contract.
Furthermore, there appears to be something wrong with the timing for finding the phone and the messages. Noteworthy, Grossi did not have a coherent rationale for searching the phone, and it is absurd that they looked into a personal text that was sent more than a year before the events of the case (Hayman, 2022). The jury can deductively conclude that the only reason the employers were interested in the personal belongings of this worker is because he sued the company. Therefore, the search and process of obtaining the messages was retaliation.
Nonetheless, the Third Circuit was right in reversing the ruling of the district court in part, but not completely. Canada’s act of texting prostitutes during work hours was indecent and had the potential to negatively affect the employee’s performance. In addition, it could ruin the brand and reputation of the company if the messages ever leaked to the public. Under different circumstances, the ruling of the district court that the text messages justified Canada’s firing would be correct (Weissner, 2022). However, the lack of reason for breaking into Canada’s locker and trying to find a reason to fire Canada led the appeal court to reverse the decision. Thus, it is vital for employers not to discriminate against their employees and apply a similar criterion in doing searches.
In conclusion, this case may present as controversial as some people may feel that the Third Circuit was wrong to reverse the ruling. There are many lessons that organizations can learn from the facts and sentences. For instance, employers risk lawsuits if they discriminate against their workers. Moreover, even when an employee is wrong, the process followed in finding the evidence may influence whether the court finds them guilty. The best way to work is to ensure that there is fairness and that the work environment promotes wellness.
Hyman, J. (2022). “Pretextual investigation” dooms employer’s defense to ex-employee’s retaliation claim. Ohio Employer Law Blog: Ohio Employment and Labor Law, by Jon Hyman. Web.
Joseph Canada, Appellant, v. Samuel Grossi & Sons, Inc. No. 20-2747. (2022).
Wiessner, D. (2022). Steelworker fired over texting prostitutes wins revival of retaliation claims. Reuters. Web.