Marie Jarry with husband
Lawsuits filed by a Connecticut teacher who appeared on the “Howard Stern Show” and an Ohio nurse who sent a homophobic e-mail to a gossip website are both examples of using the courts to avoid the consequences of unprofessional behavior.
In the Connecticut case, second-grade teacher Marie Jarry took a sick day to compete with her husband in the Stern show's “Ugliest Guy, Hottest Wife" contest. She regaled listeners with comments about her sex life and, clad in a bikini, posed for photos that were posted on the show's website.
Four days later, the principal at Thalberg Elementary School in Southington ordered Jarry not to go to her classroom. After meeting with the school board superintendent, she followed the advice of teachers' union attorneys and resigned.
“The Board of Education holds all staff to a very high standard,” Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi told the Meriden Record-Journal. All teachers' contracts have a morality clause.
But Jarry is now suing the board and the union for violation of due process and infliction of emotional distress. “Plaintiff's constructive discharge was orchestrated by [defendants], who working together, intimidated and coerced Plaintiff ... to resign in lieu of termination,” the complaint says.
Meanwhile in Ohio, Diane Wargo is blaming gossip columnist Perez Hilton for getting her fired from her job at a Cleveland nursing home. Using her work e-mail address, she had posted a comment on PerezHilton.com in which she called Hilton “a FAT GAY PIG” and also slurred Angelina Jolie.
The posting included Wargo's name and the email address and Hilton highlighted it as his “Email of the Day.” The Menorah Park Center for Senior Living terminated Wargo later the same day after receiving irate emails from PerezHilton.com readers.
“Mrs. Wargo accepted and justifiably relied on Defendants' promise that her email address and private information would not appear on the website,” Wargo says in her complaint, and Hilton “knew, or reasonably should have known, the harmful results that would follow the publication of Mrs. Wargo's personal information.”
The suit cites the website's Conditions of Use, which “specifically only reserve the right to use and disclose a commenter's screen name.” It seeks $25 million in damages for breach of contract, fraud, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.
Courts have protected the privacy of anonymous online commenters from defamation plaintiffs seeking their identity. But Wargo personally insulted the website operator –- enough surely to waive any expectation of privacy.
“If Diane Wargo wants to take a look at who is to blame ... she ought to start by looking in the mirror,” Hilton's attorney told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Jarry also has only herself to blame for losing her job after appearing on the show of radio's king of raunch when she should have been teaching second-graders. She complains she was not afforded “the due process safeguards provided for tenured teachers,” but if she had not resigned, she would almost certainly have been fired.
“You know you're in trouble when your union's attorneys won't go to bat for you,” observed a Hartford Courant reader.
By Matthew Heller