Ex-employee ordered to pay Stryker's legal fees over 'bad faith' allegations of retaliation, bias

Spinal Tech

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a ruling on Nov. 30 to dismiss an ex-Stryker Sales employee's allegations that the company illegally fired him for reporting another employee's misconduct.

Nate Stimson, who worked at Stryker for 12 years before being fired in March 2016, brought an employment action against Stryker alleging retailiation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Mr. Stimson claimed he was fired for reporting that another Stryker employee sexually harassed a hospital-employed nurse. The 40-year-old plaintiff also alleged retaliation based on his age, whereas the 30-year-old colleague he reported remained employed.

Based on earlier precedent, the appeals court ruled that Title VII, which protects an employee against "employer retaliation for opposing illegal employment practices," does not cover discrimination against third parties such as the hospital-employed nurse. Thus, the district court's ruling on the retaliation claim was upheld in favor of Stryker.

Appeals court also upheld the decision favoring Stryker in regards to Mr. Stimson's age discrimination claim, saying Mr. Stimson was unable to prove his younger colleague was "similarly situated" or treated differently due to age.

Mr. Stimson and the man he accused of sexually harassing a nurse had different supervisors, roles and backgrounds with the company. Mr. Stimson was found to be dishonest during a human resources investigation into accusations that he bullied his younger colleague, the same man he accused of sexually harassing a nurse. The report of bullying was Mr. Stimson's second reported misconduct.

The district court ordered Mr. Stimson to pay Stryker's attorney's fees, determining that the plaintiff acted in "bad faith" during court proceedings. The order was upheld on appeal.

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