Love Triangle Firing Was Proper, Court Rules

     (CN) – A sporting goods store properly fired an assistant manager over his involvement in a love triangle with co-workers, the Montana Supreme Court ruled.
     Brandon Cartwright worked for the Scheels All Sports store in Great Falls from 1996 to 2007, eventually rising to the position of lead assistant manager.
     Starting in 2001, he dated and lived with one of the other nine assistant managers at the store. In the first half of 2007, however, Cartwright had a “sexual fling” with another assistant manager, described in the court record only as J.
     J. talked about the affair with her co-workers, apparently making them uncomfortable because Cartwright’s girlfriend did not know about it. Cartwright denied the affair to the store manager in August 2007, and another assistant manager quit shortly after a heated discussion with Cartwright about the affair.
     In September, the manager called J. and Cartwright into his office, and they both denied having an affair. Cartwright got mad, and the boss fired them both.
     Cartwright sued Scheels for wrongful termination, arguing that he was fired for having a relationship with J. and refusing to discuss it.
     Scheels argued that it fired Cartwright because he swore at the manager and because the affair made it difficult for the team to work together. It said other team members lost trust in Cartwright.
     After a five-day trial, a Cascade County jury found that Scheels was correct in firing Cartwright. On appeal, Cartwright argued that he should have won via summary judgment because he was declared eligible for unemployment benefits.
     The Montana Supreme Court affirmed last week, ruling that his argument is “specifically prohibited by statute.”
     Cartwright also argued that he was wrongfully fired for out-of-office conduct, but the court called that point “a misstatement of Scheels’ case.”
     “Scheels justification for terminating Cartwright’s employment went beyond Cartwright’s off-duty, out-of-office conduct, and centered on the effect of that conduct in the workplace,” Justice Laurie McKinnon wrote for the court.
     Cartwright had additionally argued that hearsay testimony from his co-workers regarding rumors of the affair should not have been admitted.
     McKinnon shot down that argument as well, stating that testimony was not designed to prove that the rumors were true.
     “Rather, that testimony was offered to show the effect the rumors had on the listeners and on Scheels’ workplace and business,” the decision states.

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