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After Losing $3.2 Million Lawsuit, Another Former Employee Sues TapouT

TapouT lost a pretty big wrongful termination lawsuit last week when a Los Angeles jury awarded Michelle Thomas $2.4 million in punitive damages and $840,000 in compensatory damages after she was fired in June 2008. Thomas alleged that she wasn’t paid commissions she was owed and wasn’t compensated for overtime hours that she was forced to work. Additionally, she alleged that former TapouT president Marc Kreiner intentionally inflicted emotional distress by going on “unprovoked rampages” and hurling insults at her and her co-workers.

Kreiner yelled and screamed at plaintiff, hurling insults and false accusations at her, in order to humiliate and frighten her into quitting to avoid paying her wages owed and to stop her from complaining about unpaid wages.

Kreiner frequently came onto the sales floor, where plaintiff was working, and went on unprovoked rampages, in which he would act violently and belligerently. He did so in the presence of the entire sales staff and directed such conduct at Thomas and, on occasion, other employees.

Kreiner called Thomas an ‘idiot’ and accused her of being ‘unqualified’ for her job, ‘incompetent’ as a salesperson, and ‘ignorant’ because she complained about defendants’ illegal activities.

Kreiner frequently became physically violent at work, throwing objects across the office and gesturing violently, in an effort to intimate and scare plaintiff Thomas.

Kreiner, frequently and in an extremely hostile and confrontational manner, accused plaintiff and other salespersons of not selling enough product or not watching enough ‘ultimate fighting’ on their own time, regardless of, and without any knowledge of, how much a given employee was selling and regardless of how much ultimate fighting a salesperson watched during his or her free time.

This specific case may be behind them, but that doesn’t mean TapouT is done dealing with wrongful termination suits. Hot on the heels of last week’s ruling comes news that another former employee has filed suit against TapouT (among others including Zuffa), alleging wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and several other claims. And not surprisingly, former VP of Sales Lee Lemon’s allegations sound awfully similar to Ms. Thomas’.

Most of Lemon’s allegations are focused on former Tapout President Marc Kreiner, who Lemon claims abused the sales staff, allegedly calling them “f–kng worthless” and telling Lemon that he was “stupid, incompetent, and ignorant,” and that Kreiner could “hire a monkey to do his job.” Lemon also alleges that he was promised $400,000 per year in pay, but was never paid that amount. Instead, he argues, he was not paid the commissions he was owed, was berated constantly, falsely accused of firing employees without approval, blamed for salary cuts, and then directed to “defraud investors … by inflating the sales numbers and at the same time hiding accounts, to engage in thefts from licenses” before he was “constructively terminated” in May of 2010. (Under California law, constructive termination essentially requires the plaintiff to show that they resigned or quit because their working conditions were so intolerable that no reasonable person could be expected to endure them.)

To my understanding, Lemon’s case is different from Ms. Thomas’ in that he signed a settlement agreement when he left the company that would bar him from making future legal claims against TapouT in exchange for money, however Lemon claims that agreement is now null and void for several reasons. I assume that will be a point of contention when the two sides present their arguments.

I’m not gonna lie, these cases baffle me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not siding with TapouT or Mark Kreiner and I completely understand suing them for unpaid wages, but I don’t understand how a jury can award someone $2.4 million in punitive damages for essentially having to deal with an a–hole boss for eight months. Heck, I heard worse on the first day of my first job out of college and put up with it for almost two years, but never once did I think I was entitled to millions of dollars, or any money for that matter. He eventually got fired and that was good enough for me. When I think of “emotional distress” worthy of millions of dollars in compensation, I think of something life changing, an experience so damaging it adversely alters a person’s emotional state for at least a good part of their life. Being belittled, intimidated and threatened at work doesn’t fit that description if you ask me.

  • Jake

    Just more people trying to get a piece of the pie….pretty sad, well that’s America right? Or what we have made it…

    I agree, I have taken a lot of crap from bosses that shouldn’t be in their position and didn’t get money. Maybe I should sue for a few million like these people.

  • Pride fan

    Only in America.

  • Voice of Reason

    Steve Barry you f***ing suck! – Signed your boss after college. :D you are entitled for 2.4 million dollars

  • Miko

    Ass holes like that get what is coming to them. In his case it was a 2.4 million dollar law suit.

  • LAS

    I think the point is less what the plaintiff “deserves,” and more about enacting a punitive judgement against the company. Judgements like this remind companies that the penalties for mistreating your employees will be severe, which provides them with a strong incentive to ensure that a safe workplace is maintained. Would you really rather that the state of California took the $2.4 million as a fine? At least the woman will do something constructive with the money (we can hope, right?).

    • Steve Barry

      Fair point

    • Matt Silliman

      I agree that people should not be treated that way, but I think America is getting kind of soft. 2.4 million for hurtful words really???

      I’ve been insulted in every job I’ve had for one thing or another, and if I didn’t like the way I was treated I quit. I didn’t ask for millions of dollars because I was offended. If
      This guy wants to treat his employees like crap that’s his right as an employee and it’s her right to quit if she doesn’t like it.

      Now if he owed her money and wasn’t paying then she should definitely go to court to get her money. If you are gonna deal with his crap you better atleast get what you are owed. But 2.4 million??? Silly if you ask me.

      • LAS

        Actually, it isn’t your right as an employer to treat your employees likes crap, which is the fundamental basis for this woman winning her lawsuit. The whole ‘America has gone soft’ line is ridiculous; yes, people no longer have to work 12 hour days, 6 days a week in dangerous factories like they did at the dawn of the 21st century, but I think we can all agree that that is a good thing.

        Like I said, people are focusing way too hard on this is being something the woman “didn’t earn” rather than seeing it as a punishment for the employer. The conditions by which people gain access to the means of production in this country are nowhere near as equal as you think (the inheritance tax is set to go to zero this year, if I’m not mistaken), so lionizing bosses as the people who somehow pulled themselves up by their bootstraps the hardest, and who should thus be excused for whatever they do in pursuit of career advancement and corporate profit, is a dangerous mythology.

        I think workers should stand up for their rights; maybe that makes me a bad capitalist and un-American by your definition, but, oh well.

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  • Jtsupreme1

    I read that Tapout didnt pay ONE dollar in this matter in the long run……the legal system is not all it seems when less educated and for lack of a better term dumb juries hit companies with ridiculous fines or damages….the employee was trash and in the long run she called an ambulance chaser scumbag lawyer that pocketed most of the money and she got much less than reported. Corps have insurance for these matters and it was covered. TapouT didnt pay a dime directly to the employee or the lawyer.

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