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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ind. Decisions - One Indiana case today from 7th Circuit

In Gerald C. Ellis v. United Parcel (SD Ind., Judge Young), a 14-page opinion, Judge Evans writes:

This case centers around United Parcel Service’s nonfraternization policy, which forbids a manager from having a romantic relationship with any hourly employee, even an employee the manager does not supervise. The purpose of this policy, according to UPS, is to prevent favoritism and the perception of favoritism. The policy extends to workers outside of a manager’s supervisory authority because UPS says it frequently transfers managers and a manager could end up supervising any hourly employee. Unsurprisingly, this policy does not stop Cupid’s arrow from striking at UPS. As the discovery taken in this case reveals, intracompany dating is prevalent, although employees often take precautions to keep their relationships secret. Gerald Ellis was one such employee, but, unfortunately for him, he got caught. Ellis, who is an African-American, sued UPS claiming it fired him because of his race and because he is married to a white woman, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The district court granted summary judgment for UPS, and Ellis appeals.

[Judge Evans, who concludes that UPS was entitled to summary judgment on all counts, then writes:]

In closing, we emphasize that our decision today should not be construed as an endorsement of the UPS nonfraternization policy. When a company like UPS runs expensive ads that ask “What can Brown do for you?” it might be wise for it to ask if this policy is really worth all of the fuss this case has created. As we observed in Hennessy v. Penril Datacomm Networks, Inc., 69 F.3d 1344, 1353 (7th Cir. 1995):

As the work force grows and people spend more of their time at work, the workplace inevitably becomes fertile ground for the dating and mating game. It is certainly not unusual, and it may even be desirable, for love to bloom in the workplace. Contiguity can lead to sexual interest, which can lead to soft music, candlelight dinners, serious romance, and marriage, or any stops along the way.
By all accounts, Ellis was a good employee. He started with UPS as a driver right out of high school in 1979 and worked his way up to a managerial position. After 21 years with the company, he met a woman, apparently fell in love, and, after a 4-year relationship, got engaged. A year later he got married. That’s a fairly nice story, and so is the fact that Ellis and his wife were smooching at a summer concert several months after their wedding. Heck, some marriages today don’t even last that long. Although UPS, for the reasons we have stated, comes out on top in this case, love and marriage are the losers. Something just doesn’t seem quite right about that. The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 29, 2008 01:11 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions