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Litigation Team Successfully Overturns Million-dollar Award Against Client

September 10, 2009

MILWAUKEE — Susan Schellinger and Heather Gatewood recently convinced the Wisconsin Court of Appeals that an employer is not responsible for unforeseeable bizarre activity of an employee. A trial court judge found that our employer client was liable to seven women whose images were posted by a male employee on pornographic websites. The employee had copied photographs of approximately 30 female coworkers to a flash drive at work , printed the photographs at home, engaged in disturbing conduct with the photos, and then posted pictures of the adulterated photos on pornographic Web sites he created on Yahoo!

The employer had screened the employee before hire and conducted numerous background checks. The employer had no information from either that pre-employment screening process or information gained during the nine years of his employment that would suggest the employee was a threat to anyone or was engaging in any inappropriate behavior. The employer also had appropriate policies in place against sexual harassment and theft and utilized internet filtering software. Nonetheless, the trial court awarded damages to the women of $1.4 million. On appeal, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals fully vindicated the employer client, concluding that the employer could not have predicted or prevented the bizarre and disturbing actions of its employee, which he engaged in at his own home and on his own time.

To read more about the decision, please visit the Wisconsin Law Journal Website.