Apple Keeps Injunction Against Fired Worker
(CN) - A woman who went off her medication and harassed former co-workers at Apple must refrain from stalking them in the future, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled.
Catherine Danforth had worked at the Apple store in Atlanta's Lenox Square Mall for a year when her frequent outbursts in front of employees and customers, among other issues, led the company to fire her in August 2012.
Among various mental disorders, Danforth had been previously been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, according to the ruling. She had also pleaded guilty to criminal trespass some years earlier, and was banned from a hospital's grounds for a year.
After her termination, Danforth admittedly emailed Apple employees "every day." She also left an Apple manager 17 angry voicemails while he was on vacation. In late October, that employee discovered that Danforth's Facebook profile showed her with a hunting rifle.
Apple hired sheriff's officers as extra security at this point, as Danforth had still not complied with its orders to stop communicating with Apple employees.
Danforth texted and emailed another manager at all hours of the day and night, stating in one missive: "You hurt me very badly, and I can't help but think that some of it was intentional."
She sued Apple that November, claiming that her firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Apple asked for a restraining order against Danforth, which a court in Fulton County granted based on Danforth's history of mental illness, as documented by a past suicide attempt, and the fact that she had not been taking her medication.
The case was transferred to Cobb County when it was learned Danforth lived there.
Danforth continued to text and email Apple employees, however, and she failed to sway the court at a three-hour injunction hearing in January 2013 where she represented herself.
"I find that [Danforth] has exhibited, both from the testimony of the witnesses and the court's own observations of her demeanor in the courtroom, behavior that would lead a reasonable person to be fearful of her," the court said.
Danforth appealed the order, which banned her from any Apple store or office for three years. She is also prohibited from coming within 500 feet of any Apple employee or from contacting them in any way.
In affirming on March 28, the Georgia Supreme Court noted that Danforth had cried on the witness stand, and was otherwise emotional while cross-examining Apple's witnesses. She also rambled about guns for several minutes, according to the ruling.
"Although Danforth argues that her individual contacts with Apple employees, while perhaps unwanted, were not harassing or intimidating, the trial court was entitled to consider the totality of the circumstances bearing on the intent of Danforth's acts and their effects on Apple's employees, to make credibility determinations in favor of Apple's witnesses and against Danforth, and to resolve other factual disputes and make other reasonable inferences in Apple's favor," Justice David Nahmias wrote for the court.
The court did, however, distinguish the restrictions on Danforth's contact with Apple employees on the job and its limit on her other communications.
"Danforth could violate the injunction merely by communicating through social media with a person anywhere in the world who happens to be an Apple employee, even if Danforth is unaware of that person's connection to Apple and the communication has nothing to do with Apple or her unhappy relationship with Apple," Nahmias wrote.
The trial court must revise the overbroad aspects of the injunction on remand, according to the ruling.