Care Initiatives, one of Iowa’s largest employers, a non-profit company operating 56 nursing homes, has been involved in grueling litigation for the last five years. It would appear that even a non-profit company can be affected by claims of profit, greed, and sexual harassment.
It all started when a former executive who was in line to become the next CEO accused the current CEO of sexual harassment. This lead to her firing (her job duties were investigated with a conclusion that she was not worthy of her position), her filing of a lawsuit and her recovery of over $1 million in settlement. The lawsuit took two years in which 10 years worth of Internet company e mails were turned over in discovery including, a computer hard drive.
As a result of the lawsuit, the Des Moines Register published an article about questionable profits and payments made by Care Initiatives. Thereafter, Care Initiatives was investigated for potential abuses of the federal nonprofit laws. At the same time, the former employee’s husband, who was a retired attorney, began sending a series of threatening e-mails to Care Initiatives and its attorneys, accusing them of tax fraud and refusing to return to the company 14 boxes of confidential documents produced in the lawsuit and ordered returned. Care Initiatives obtained an order for contempt and is now seeking $134,000 in sanctions against the employee and her husband.
Our advice to our clients is always to be careful of becoming adverse to employees who are charged with too much knowledge and information of the running of the company. It is also interesting to see how a case can easily get out of hand and affect anyone involved. Yet most important for the attorneys among us or those defending attorneys, is that when you proceed with a personal crusade disregarding a court order the price can be steep.