Case 14-2 You Are Not Hurt? Good—You’re Fired!
CEO Ashley Chen founded ActioNet (AN) in 1998, supporting clients hailing from industries including transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications, retail, the public sector and financial services; their most prominent clients include the Departments of Labor and Energy and Qwest with IT services. AN is a full-service IT firm providing their clients with project management, custom software development, network design, computer security assessment, training, systems integration, and design and consulting services.(1)
AN’s “core values” include instilling integrity in everything they do, innovating to enable their mission, making their customers and each other successful, achieving service delivery excellence and partnering for success.
At ActioNet, we are committed to conducting our business with integrity, not only doing things right, but also doing the right things. We believe in transparency and accuracy with open and honest communication. Being fair and ethical are an integral part of how we do business and strengthens our relationships.(2)
Core values aside, the firms of V. James DeSimone Law and Navab Law won a substantive civil law suit against AN, alleging that their client was subjected to wrongful termination and workplace violence. (See Case 2:14-cv-00792-AB-PJW, Yowan Yang v. ActioNet, Inc.) Why did AN have to pay $2.4 million plus $5 million in punitive damages to Los Angeles employment lawyers Jim DeSimone and Kaveh Navab’s client? How is this possible given the firm’s core values and their belief in open and honest communications?
Mr. Yang was originally hired as an employee of L-3 National Security Solutions in September 2008 and became an employee of AN when they took over L-3’s federal contract to the Federal Aviation Administration in April 2010. Yang provided technical support to the contract and was employed by AN because of his prior excellent performance. He continued to excel at his job with AN, obtaining merit pay and superior evaluations, the last one leading to a pay raise merely a few months before his job loss. The problems started at AN when they hired Cy Tymony to provide similar services as Yang. Yang and Tymony were placed on the same work group and worked in close proximity (4 feet away from one another).(3)
Yang said he and Tymony had several public incidents in the workplace, including some in which Tymony was publicly upset because Yang had either stored cans of soda in the office freezer or was eating candy during a staff meeting, according to the amended complaint. Towards the end of the meeting, Tymony pounded his fist against a cubicle, told Yang that he had no respect for others, and cursed several times, the later-filed complaint said. On July 24, 2012, both Tymony and Yang met individually with supervisors to see who would be willing to move to another cubicle, according to the complaint. After Tymony left the meeting, he loudly complained that Yang was an “asshole” who chewed ice. After Yang suggested that Tymony move his cubicle, Tymony grabbed him by the neck and, yelling curses, threatened his life.(4) The results? Yang’s workstation lay in a shambles, the result of Tymony’s losing control of his emotions.
AN took quick, albeit questionable, action. They fired both Tymony and Yang on the spot without supporting documentation. Although a federal investigation 2 days later indicated no wrong doing on Yang’s part (he was called a “complete victim”), AN took no further action in the matter. One would have expected AN to rehire Yang, or at least do their own research on the matter. Worse, AN never responded to requests from Yang asking for a rationale for his firing as well as a demand for his job back.
Mr. Yang then filed a civil legal complaint that said that rather than properly investigate the incident, AN simply moved to quickly fire him and the other employee, causing him emotional harm and making it difficult for him to find a new job.
After being fired “for cause,” Mr. Yang applied unsuccessfully for hundreds of jobs, says DeSimone, his lawyer. Mr. Yang lost his career, his apartment, his independence, his self-worth, and his self-esteem.(5)
AN argued in the case that it should not be held responsible because of any violent tendencies of Tymony, because he was fit to perform his job, because there is no evidence that the company tolerated Tymony’s conduct and because Tymony was not acting in the “course and scope” of his job during the altercation.(6)
AN was penalized and Mr. Yang compensated for what the jury regarded as callous disregard of Mr. Yang’s rights. “The jury sent a loud and clear message via this case to companies that harassment, workplace violence and termination would not be tolerated. ActioNet never took responsibility for its wrongful conduct and the jury held them accountable.”(7)
1. This case was a civil case. How might it have become a federal case under OSHA’s charge?
2. How might ActioNet have not upheld their OSHA responsibilities?
3. Although a federal investigation 2 days later indicated no wrongdoing on Yang’s part (he was called a “complete victim”), ActioNet took no further action in the matter. If these were OSHA investigators, under what category of violation might ActioNet be subject to penalty?
4. Stress might have been the cause of Tymony’s intolerable conduct. Which cause(s) of stress might have accounted for his inexcusable behavior?
5. What are the causes of workplace violence, and how might they help us better understand this case?
6. What are the signs of potential violence, and were any exhibited in this case?
7. What trends or issues in workplace safety apply to this case?
ASSIGNMENT BELOW !!!!
Next, analyze the case and provide an overview of key points or discussions. An overview is not a detailed description or regurgitated statements from the case, but instead key points in the case. Then, make 2 recommendations for improvements for any parts of the case (think like an HR leader). Saying that someone should have did this, or what you would have done are not considered improvements.
- One to three small sentence-responses for analyzing the cases are not considered substantive.
- You may only have no more than two references for your response and each must be appropriately cited in the words.
- You may not copy and paste any part of another student’s response as part of your response.
- For this course, you must comment to a minimum of 2 other students’ responses…No Exceptions!
- Although not mandatory, you are strongly encouraged to make your initial post by Wednesday of each week so that you have plenty of time to respond to your classmates.