Whitman 'mistreats' workers

Katy Grimes: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown’s campaign sent out an email blast today with more accusations of Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s alleged temper and accusations of “assault.”

News broke last month about Whitman physically pushing a staff handler, when Whitman was CEO of eBay. The employee was reported to have received $200,000 for her trouble, but oddly ended up going back to work at eBay.

Today’s email from the Brown campaign reports an age discrimination lawsuit filed in 1995 when Whitman was with national florist FTD. The Brown camp writes that it “wasn’t the first time Whitman’s mistreatment of her staff cost her employer money — and it wasn’t the first time she tried to keep it secret either.”

The age discrimination case was settled and a confidentiality agreement signed by the parties.

Brown’s campaign then recounts “now-illegal stock deals.”

Is this campaign rhetoric?

Campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford said that it’s evidence of Whitman covering up serious employment mishaps by paying off the employees and then requiring secrecy through confidentiality agreements. When asked about the “other incidents” referred to in the memo, Clifford referenced another memo attached to the email, which included a little more information about the pushing incident, age discrimination case and “now-illegal stock deals.”  Each case cited old news stories as the sources of information.

The most egregious of accusations was apparently when Whitman called her FTD employees “old and stodgy,” stating a need for younger workers. She couldn’t have been all bad since her compensation package at FTD was valued at $192,000 when she was hired, and was bumped up to $358,000 the following year.

The email from the Brown campaign is critical of Whitman for refusing to answer questions about the settlement agreements, as well as her description of the settlements as “frivolous,” claiming that she’s being secretive.
Brown’s campaign is critical of the Whitman spokesman’s answer: “[S]uits of this nature filed against executives of major companies are commonplace today. Too often they are frivolous and in no way reflect the true performance of management.” The Brown campaign retorts, “But if the case was frivolous, why did Whitman settle?”
The simple answer is the company often is wise to settle. Age discrimination cases are extremely difficult to rebut, and good plaintiff’s and applicant’s attorneys know it.
I am not defending Whitman’s alleged behavior. If she is a bully, it should be exposed. But how many frivolous age discrimination lawsuits has the state of California paid out? Or bogus sexual harassment lawsuits? Or stress claims by employees who were not injured at all, and are instead extorting “the employer?”
Whitman’s spokesman is correct when he said that frivolous suits are frequently filed and settled against employers, and in far too many cases, are not always reflective of a company’s management.
Jerry Brown makes his current living as Attorney General suing big business on behalf of the state of California. He should be able to discern the frivolous from the legitimate.

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