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Woman claims she was fired for voting for Obama

Posted by on Feb. 20, 2013 at 11:20 PM
  • 15 Replies

 

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Woman claims she was fired for voting for Obama

By Mark Gokavi

Staff Writer

DAYTON —

A Kettering woman alleges in a lawsuit that she was fired for voting for President Obama, a charge the company denies.

Patricia Kunkle is seeking in excess of $25,000 from Dayton-based defense contractor Q-Mark, Inc. and its president and owner, Roberta “Bobbie” Gentile, in a suit filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. (What do you think: Are your politics any of your employer's business?)

Kunkle’s lawsuit claims Gentile threatened employees with termination last year if President Obama was re-elected and that Obama supporters would be the first to be terminated if he were re-elected. Kunkle’s suit said her voting preferences came up in conversation the day after the election and that she was fired Nov. 9 for what the suit claims Gentile said was in the “best interest of the company.”

“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, taking it to the extreme of impairing somebody’s career because they disagree with your political choices is just wrong,” said Kunkle’s attorney, Karen Dunlevey. “We’re hoping that the court will recognize that and adopt a public policy exception for her.”

Gentile’s attorney, Brian Wildermuth, disputed the lawsuit’s premise.

“Ms. Kunkle was laid off for economic reasons – nothing more,” Wildermuth wrote as part of a prepared response to the Dayton Daily News. ” I am sure you and your readers are familiar with the ongoing uncertainties regarding defense spending, and thus the economic environment confronting defense contractors. The allegation that Q-Mark discharged Ms. Kunkle because of her vote is simply false.”

Wildermuth said Kunkle’s position was not filled.

The suit claims Kunkle started as a temporary worker with the small company in April 2012 and became full-time in May 2012. It also says she performed her duties “efficiently and effectively,” never received any disciplinary action or negative performance evaluations. The suit also said Kunkle was paid $12 per hour, was not paid overtime for hours she worked in excess of 40 hours and is not exempt from OT pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The suit also said Gentile engaged Q-Mark employees in conversations aimed at discovering employees’ political affiliations and repeatedly disparaged Obama supporters.

Dunlevey said she typically represents employers in employment litigation but made an exception for this case, which pits at-will employment against Ohio Revised Code 3599, which guards against employers’ intimidation, coercion and retaliation involving elections.

“This case, if they find in our favor, will be making new law,” Dunlevey said. “But there is what’s called wrongful termination/violation of public policy in employment law cases.”

University of Dayton School of Law professor Richard Saphire said that if the plaintiff can successfully argue that she wasn’t fired due to economic reasons that there is a question involving Ohio limiting the scope of the at-will employment doctrine.

“It’s just a question of if you have a statute that affects, or to some extent, modifies, an employment relationship and what does the statute say and does the statute apply in this situation and can she claim the protection of the statute,” Saphire said. “She either can or she can’t. The court’s going to interpret the statute in light of what it sees as the relevant facts in this case and decide one way or the other.”

Defense attorneys have until mid-March to respond to the case that was randomly assigned to Judge Dennis Langer.

by on Feb. 20, 2013 at 11:20 PM
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Replies (1-10):
FrogSalad
by Sooze on Feb. 20, 2013 at 11:31 PM
1 mom liked this

Interesting.  I'm not sure if she can prove her case, but if the employer *did* make comments to the effect that those who dont vote a certain way will be fired, and then that person *is* subsequently fired, the employer has to realize they're opening themselves up to this type of suit.


In general, I think people should think long and hard about why we have secret ballots.

LindaClement
by Linda on Feb. 21, 2013 at 1:19 AM
1 mom liked this

S-E-C-R-E-T ballot.

Maybe she lied to them. Maybe she didn't. They will NEVER be able to find out.

candlegal
by Judy on Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:15 AM

she won't be able to prove that one, how could they possibly know how she voted?

AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:31 AM
People are so funny for thinking that at will employees have the right to tell an employer that it isn't their business who they voted for. As we all know, at will employees should just be quiet and happy that they have the opportunity to work a decent job. He likely asked who she voted for, she said the truth or that it wasn't his business who she voted for and he reminded her how evil Obama is and that she was part of the problem. She was fired for the betterment of the company which screams "How dare you do what you want. I won't have employees who aren't yes men!"
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soonergirl980
by Silver Member on Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:35 AM
Ohio is an at will state and voting for Obama is not a protected class so I dont think it matters.
stormcris
by Christy on Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:36 AM

She may have a case about the overtime perhaps but she cannot prove the other.

edelweiss23
by on Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:38 AM
Smh

Not even my own family knows who I voted for. I don't see the need to blab to the world who I did or did not vote for.

I think she will have a hard time proving her case, especially if she lives in a "at will" state.
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mikiemom
by Ruby Member on Feb. 21, 2013 at 8:10 AM
1 mom liked this

I hope she wins her suit, it would send a message to employers that t heir political views can not be forced on their employees.

ejsmom4604
by Silver Member on Feb. 21, 2013 at 8:40 AM

The part I highlighted in blue...that's what get's me. No matter which way a person votes, their job should never be threatened over it, or actual loss of job should happen. What gets me is that she lost her job so soon after the election. It wasn't a month or two months later, or even after anything was done with the budget. 

If the employer did make the statement that employees would be at risk or would lose their employment because they voted for someone the employer didn't like, well that is plain wrong, and in Ohio, that is a no no, even with it being an "at will" work state.  

Quote:

Dunlevey said she typically represents employers in employment litigation but made an exception for this case, which pits at-will employment against Ohio Revised Code 3599, which guards against employers’ intimidation, coercion and retaliation involving elections.

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tina08mommy
by Member on Feb. 21, 2013 at 8:41 AM
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