Monday, April 12, 2010

Email Harassment - Jesse James Edition

The Jesse James-Sandra Bullock story continues to stay in the news, and why not? It has a celebrity couple, lurid affairs, allegations of Nazism, and a tattooed bikini model named "Bombshell." How could it possibly get any more interesting than that? If you said, "By adding employment law, of course!" Then congratulations, you're right!

In a Radar Online "Exclusive" the online entertainment site published emails between Jesse James and "mistress #5." She was an employee of James' West Coast Choppers who apparently sued him for sexual harassment. The story claims she settled "well into six figures," citing a "friend."

The emails are a little raunchy, but if they were in the midst of a consensual sexual relationship it may be hard to argue the emails were unwelcome. That said, I imagine settling a sexual harassment suit becomes a little easier when the alleged harasser is a celebrity... who is married... to one of the most famous actresses in the world.

There are two real-world lessons here (aside from the obvious - don't harass employees):

1. New technology provides a great way to communicate. Unfortunately, it also provides new opportunities for harassment whether by email as here, text messaging, or social media.
2. Include a confidentiality clause with teeth in settlement agreements!

Now, on point number 2, I would guess the agreement included one although I have no way of knowing for sure. Whether that will become an issue remains to be seen.

Image: Jesse G. James, American motorcycle manufacturer. Taken at the 2007 Scream Awards. This image was originally posted to Flickr by pinguino at http://flickr.com/photos/44159829@N00/1868147548. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Posted by Philip Miles, an employment lawyer with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania.