NOTEWORTHY CASES | employment and labor

2018 |
Tully v. City of Wilmington

In March 2018, S. Luke Largess and Cheyenne N. Chambers obtained a significant victory before the Supreme Court of North Carolina on behalf of Kevin Tully, a Wilmington police officer. The landmark case created a new cause of action for government employees under Article I, Section 1 of the North Carolina Constitution. A copy of the Court’s opinion can be accessed here.

In December 2014, represented by former Tin Fulton attorney, Katy Parker, Mr. Tully sued the City, asserting that he was never given the opportunity to grieve his denial of a promotion—a violation of his state constitutional right to “the enjoyment of the fruits of [his] own labor.”

 
2016 |
Tully v. City of Wilmington

Katy Parker successfully argued on behalf of Kevin Tully, a Wilmington police officer, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Mr. Tully filed a complaint that the city’s promotion process violated his constitutional rights to substantive due process and equal protection under the North Carolina Constitution. The Court of Appeals held that he had alleged a valid property and liberty interest in requiring the city to comply with its own established promotional process.

 
2012 |
Leardini v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Jeff Leardini, a middle school teacher, was charged with improperly touching students. He was terminated by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and faced criminal charges. Noell Tin represented Leardini and secured a not guilty verdict on all charges in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in June 2007.

Luke Largess subsequently represented Leardini in a civil action against CMS, alleging that CMS violated his right to due process when they terminated him. On February 24, 2012, a federal jury ruled in Leardini’s favor and awarded him over $1.1 million. Leardini said he never thought about giving up and putting the episode behind him, telling the Charlotte Observer: “My good name is worth it, even if it takes five years to get there.” Largess observed that the jury’s verdict should help “the school system to appreciate the personal pressure that people are under when they’re accused,” stressing that teachers “should be supported and not just treated as the enemy.” The case was later settled on appeal for $680,000. P.J. Roth of Asheville was co-counsel.

 
2012 |
Hall v. Spence

John Gresham represented a former assistant clerk of court on a First Amendment claim that her termination from employment was motivated by her religious beliefs. Ms. Hall received a $300,000 settlement on the eve of trial.

 
2011 |
US Airways, Inc. v. US Airline Pilots Association

John Gresham represented the US Airline Pilots Association in a federal court dispute between the airline and the pilots union. Gresham continues to serve as North Carolina counsel for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) in federal and state court proceedings.

 
2010 |
Rhinehart v. City of Gastonia

John Gresham represented a female police sergeant on a sex discrimination claim that her termination from employment was based on her gender. Ms. Rhinehart received a settlement of $390,000 after the federal district court denied the City’s summary judgment motion.

 
2009 |
Jones v. Graham County Board of Education

In 2009, Luke Largess represented employees of the Graham County Board of Education in a challenge to the Board’s policy mandating the random, suspicionless drug and alcohol testing of all Board employees. The Court of Appeals held that the policy violated the North Carolina Constitution’s guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 
2005 |
Brown v. Hillcrest Foods

In 2005, Luke Largess secured a substantial jury verdict in federal court for a client following his employer’s unlawful retaliation. A federal jury awarded Mr. Brown $420,000 after it found that his employer unlawfully retaliated against him for filing a discrimination claim. The case was ultimately settled confidentially before the court’s ruling on attorneys’ fees.

 
2005 |
Vanderburg v. N.C. Dept. of Revenue

John Gresham successfully litigated a case of first impression before the North Carolina Court of Appeals concerning whether a probationary state employee could bring an action alleging that his termination was the result of his religious practices. After succeeding in the Court of Appeals, Gresham’s client was reinstated. The Department of Revenue ultimately settled both the wrongful termination claim and parallel discrimination claim brought with the EEOC for $100,000 in lost wages, compensatory damages, and lost benefits. The Department also paid $52,000 for attorney’s fees and costs.

 
2001 |
Craig v. Asheville City Board of Education

Luke Largess prevailed in the North Carolina Court of Appeals after the court held that probationary teachers have a right to trial over the non-renewal of their contracts.

 
1998 |
Worthy v. Biggers Brothers

Jon Wallas successfully represented Brown T. Worthy at trial in federal district court and later on appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling that Biggers Brothers, Inc., a wholesale food distribution company in Charlotte, had discriminated against Mr. Worthy, who was African American, by failing to promote him to a sales position. The Court of Appeals also affirmed a sizeable award of back wages and attorney fees for Mr. Worthy.

 
1998 |
Brewer v. Cabarrus Plastics, Inc.

John Gresham represented an African American client in a 42 U.S.C. § 1981 action and an action for wrongful discharge based on the public policy expressed in the state Equal Employment Practices Act alleging both race discrimination and retaliation resulting from the filing of an EEOC charge. This was the first appellate decision recognizing a wrongful discharge retaliation claim base on the public policy in the Equal employment Protection Act.

 
1992 |
Crump v. Board of Education

John Gresham successfully litigated this case from trial to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which affirmed a school teacher’s jury verdict of $76,000 in a case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for being forced to endure a dismissal hearing before a school board containing one member who was biased against him.

 
1992 |
Corum v. University of North Carolina

John Gresham represented a university professor in a free speech claim against the University of North Carolina and some of its officials. At issue was whether the professor had standing to bring a constitutional claim when there was no specific statute authorizing such a cause of action. In a groundbreaking 1992 decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the professor, holding that in the absence of an adequate state remedy, a person whose constitutional rights have been abridged has a direct claim against the State and its officials under the North Carolina Constitution.

 
1989 |
Reed v. United Transportation Union

John Gresham successfully argued this case in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that Union members were not barred from suing their Union for violating their right to free speech, because their claim, under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, was governed by a three-year state statute of limitations rather than a shorter federal statute.

 
1985 |
Anderson v. City of Bessemer

Jon Wallas represented Ms. Anderson, who was passed over for the position of Director of Recreational Facilities and Programs of Bessemer City, North Carolina in favor of a man with less experience and qualifications. Wallas brought suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act claiming that Ms. Anderson had been denied the position on account of her sex. The district court found sex discrimination but was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the district court’s vindication of Ms. Anderson’s claim.