Roberts and Blackledge recently settled a case against the City of Hattiesburg on behalf of a Richard Tapp, an employee of the Hattiesburg Police Department. Our client brought the suit against his former employer because he was not granted the due process to which he was entitled by the police department’s own policies and procedures. In the suit, Tapp sought damages for back pay and front pay, as well as attorney fees and other emotional damages.
Richard Tapp, a former chaplain and fleet manager with the Hattiesburg Police Department, was fired for insubordination after he refused to make a statement about a sexual harassment charge without a lawyer present. Tapp had already been cleared of the same sexual harassment allegation months earlier in an internal investigation.
Sexual harassment is a valid social issue, but it was not the material issue of law that was the subject of this case. The Hattiesburg Police Department has a detailed protocol for providing due process to employees, and they did not follow it. Tapp, like all other terminated officers at the Police Department, have a right to due process before being terminated.
While the settlement reached with the Police Department did not admit any fault on the part of the defendant, Tapp certainly felt vindicated by the result.
The lesson to be learned by all employers is this: when you have a handbook, or in this case governmental policies and procedures, following the written policies is essential. Failing to follow policies may cause liability on the part of the employer.