Steven: Good afternoon and welcome to Law is Stranger than Fiction. I’m one of your co-hosts Steven Bergman a shareholder in the Salt Lake City law firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson.
Barry: And I’m your other co-host, Barry Scholl, also a shareholder at the firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson.
Steven: And today’s episode takes us back into the realm of employment law. Specifically, in this case we’re talking about a former law school professor who claims that he was retaliated against by the law school. And the way that they retaliated against him was by giving him a raise of $666 dollars and thereby humiliating him by giving him a raise that was the signifier of the “Mark of the Beast,” in religious circles.
Barry: Did he bring litigation into all of this?
Steven: He did. He filed a law suit in Federal Court over it actually and made a number of claims, including the retaliation claim for getting a $666 dollar raise.
Barry: And what was the outcome?
Steven: At the trial court level, not surprisingly, not very good for the law professor. He lost, the District Court found that he had not established that he was retaliated against and he’d not established that the raise of $666 was unlawful retaliation.
Barry: And was that the end of the matter?
Steven: No, he actually appealed the case and took it to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Barry: So, wait a minute, he was arguing that he was retaliated against because he received araise of 666 dollars and he took this to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals?
Steven: I don’t think he chose the Sixth Circuit. It just happens to be that this case took place in Ohio and that Ohio is part of the Sixth Circuit. But you think if there’s any circuit that might be somewhat sympathetic to a claim based on the 666 dollar raise, it might be the sixth circuit.
Barry: Okay and what was his argument?
Steven: On appeal, again, he raised the retaliation claim he had been trying to unionize some of the law professors at the school and claimed that his First Amendment rights were being infringed because they retaliated against him by only giving him this 666 dollar raise.
Barry: Now I understand that originally the raise was slightly more 727 dollars, a figure that was far as we know has no religious significance. How did the school arrive at the figure of 666 dollars?
Steven: Well in question the Dean of the School explained that in that particular year they had broken the professors at the school into three tiers. And a top tier got $5,000 raised the second tier got a $3,000 raise, the third tier split what was left over. Because of the size of the pool and the number of professors who ended up in the third tier, it ended up being 666 dollars when they divided it.
Barry: And is that professor, still having lost on appeal, is he still presumably teaching law?
Steven: He is not. He actually retired a couple years prior to this case being decided and his wife was also teaching school and who had also received a 666 dollar raise was laid off because the school is actually experiencing declining enrollment.
Barry: Okay, now I know you practice employment law. Presumably employers won’t see a case involving the “Mark of the Beast.” What are some issues they might encounter?
Steven: Well, obviously if you’ve got an employee who is taking advantage of the First Amendment right, trying to organize, trying to unionize, you can’t retaliate against that employee. You have to treat them equally– the way you treat all the other employees. And that’s what ultimately protected the school in this case. They could demonstrate that while the raise several anti-union professors also got the same raise because it was decided not by an arbitrary number meant to embarrass the professor but by simply dividing the raised pool among the number of professors involved. So now, if you’re an employer and you have an employee that’s trying to unionize or trying to engage in activities that you think might be questionable and you don’t know what to do, contact the attorneys of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson. We’re here to help and we look forward to doing so. For now, I’m Steven Bergman.
Barry: And I’m Barry Scholl and this is…
Together: Law is Stranger than Fiction