An Ohio woman, Patricia Kunkle, was dismissed from her job shortly after President Obama's re-election last November. Her employer had previously threatened to fire Obama supporters if he were to win re-election.
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.
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.”
The employer's lawyer, Brian Wildermuth in a prepared response said that Kunkle was laid off for economic reasons. You know, the uncertainty and all. Kunkle up to that point had received positive reviews. She was an hourly worker, paid $12 an hour and was not paid overtime when she worked more than 40 hours per week even though she was not exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. So there's that too.
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. [...][bolding added by diarist]
The suit also said Gentile engaged Q-Mark employees in conversations aimed at discovering employees’ political affiliations and repeatedly disparaged Obama supporters.
Kunkle's lawyer Karen Dunlevey normally represents employers, not employees, but hopes to set a precedent with this case.
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.Ms. Kunkle's was one of the very important votes that gave Ohio's electoral votes to President Obama thus helping him win the Presidency (as well as giving Karl Rove fits). Given that this lawyer has chosen to represent what would normally be a sure loser since Kunkle is an 'at will employee', this should prove to be very interesting.
“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.