RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A Richmond city employee is taking his boss to court. He's suing her because he says she called him an "idiot."
The city employee claims his boss called him an idiot on several occasions in front of other co-workers. He's suing her for $1.2-million in damages. A local labor attorney says it's an unusual case that may come down to one question. What constitutes an idiot?
Roy Eidem, the Director of Operations for the city's code enforcement division, is suing Rachel Flynn, the Director of Community Development, claiming she humiliated and harassed him by calling him an idiot - specifically on August 11, 2009 at a meeting in front of co-workers. One witness said it was day that will not be forgotten. Eidem also says Flynn referred to him as an idiot on two other occasions including a staff lunch meeting.
Eidem filed an official grievance with Human Resources soon after the alleged incident. Investigators concluded the claim against Flynn was unfounded, but did say certain actions by Flynn "violated administrative regulation for business conduct" at City Hall which requires employees treat "every individual with respect and courtesy."
Rachel DePompa: Does this case really hinge on the word 'idiot'?
Jay Burtch: If it does they're in deep trouble. I think.
Jay Burtch has been a labor and employment attorney in Richmond for 37 years. He says this is a lawsuit, he would never have filed. Burtch says if this suit even makes it to court, it won't be easy an easy case to present.
"I think it's very hard to prove. And it's hard to prove on the merits of the word itself...Idiot. Whether that's opinion, whether that's a statement of verifiable fact, and then it's hard to prove damages," said Burtch.
Eidem and Flynn did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson at City Hall said, "We do not comment on matters of pending litigation."