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  • Writer's pictureMike Burkons

Alec Isaacson's flawed premise for hiring the Minc Law Firm

Council President Alec Isaacson's entire position to defend this path he has allowed the City to go down, relies on the flawed premise that if the City doesn't hire the Minc Law Firm to try to unmask the anonymous critic, it is at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit for hostile work environment. Alec is repeating the same erroneous advice our Law Director Stewart Hastings provided in the Nov. 7th, 2022 Council meeting where he claimed that an employee had already been threatened to file a lawsuit against the city for hostile work environment, if Council didn't vote to approve spending $25k to hire Minc to identify the anonymous critic.

It has been pointed out numerous times to Alec the specific reasons why the premise his entire position/argument relies upon is flawed, and more specifically, why any lawsuit against the city for hostile work environment wouldn’t succeed (see email below). Alec could end this embarrassing debacle at the next Council meeting by introducing an ordinance to rescind the hiring of the Minc Law Firm and removing the City from being a co-plaintiff the Police Chief's lawsuit. Instead of doing that, Alec is CHOOSING to only listen to our law director, who is likely the only lawyer that understands hostile work environment claims that would tell him what he wants to hear to justify the path he wants to take the City down. Below is an email sent to all of Council last month explaining in detail the specific reasons why any lawsuit against the City for hostile work environment won't succeed.

From: Friendof MissMarples <> Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2023 10:50 PM To: Justin Berns; Barbara Janovitz; Joshua Mintz; Danielle Shoykhet; June Taylor; Mike Burkons; Alec Isaacson; Eric Synenberg Subject: Beachwood Police Chief Lawsuit

Beachwood Mayor and Council; Whoever told you the Police Chief had a legitimate hostile work environment claim against the City is giving you terrible advice. The term “hostile work environment” is often misunderstood by those without knowledge of the law. In Ohio a hostile work environment DOES NOT exist if there is a personality conflict as the law does not protect us against jerks. This means that a coworker (or a supervisor) who is rude to everyone, regardless of their protected status, is not breaking the law or creating liability for a ‘hostile work environment’ claim. In Ohio, all the following five characteristics must exist for a hostile work environment claim to succeed:

1. The employee is a member of a protected class (his or her sex, age, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or disability);

2. The employee was subject to unwelcome harassment;

3. The alleged harassment was based on the employee’s membership of the protected class;

  • The Police Chief is a woman and part of a protected class but the alleged harassment in the anonymous emails and social media posts were not based on her membership of this protected class.

  • The two emails and three social media posts cited in the lawsuit were just as critical of the assistant chief, and none of the criticism or alleged harassment was based on gender.

4. The alleged harassment is “severe and persistent” making it difficult or impossible for the targeted individual to do his or her work or stay on the job at all;

  • The term “severe and pervasive” is extremely important. In general, a single incident does not rise to the level of a hostile work environment unless it is particularly extreme, such as assault. A hostile work environment is something that continues over a substantial period of time.

  • One-time jokes, gentle teasing, and bantering back and forth do not meet the legal standard for being deemed harassing behaviors. Even if a comment such as a racial slur is deeply offensive and hurtful, it will not support a hostile work environment lawsuit if the slur is spewed a single time.

  • Of the two emails and three social media posts cited in the lawsuit, the John Marconi post is the only one where an argument could be made for harassment. However, a single post does not qualify as “severe and pervasive”.

5. The employer knew or should have known about the harassment, had a duty to take corrective action and failed to do so.

If your police chief or assistant chief threaten to file a hostile work environment lawsuit against the City if Minc wasn't hired, your law director should have immediately thrown water on that idea and explained why her hostile work environment claim would fail. Barbara Janovitz is an attorney at a well-respected law firm. She could ask any of the firm’s attorneys in their employment law practice and they will tell you the same thing. Concerned Citizen

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