A former ADP controller deserves a new trial because a Hudson County judge wrongly let lawyers for the payroll processing giant tell jurors she’d been fired from a previous job, a state appeals court has ruled.
Diane Redvanly sued Automated Data Processing, saying she was fired for questioning the company’s auditing practices. Jurors ruled against her — in part, she claims, because ADP attorneys were allowed to bring up a troubled past she had with NYNEX.
Saying the disclosure “unduly prejudiced” the jury, the state Appellate Court sent the case back to Jersey City for a new trial.
Jurors in Redvanly’s case shouldn’t have heard such evidence during a damages phase, not during the liability portion, the appeals judges ruled.
ADP said it intends to appeal to New Jersey’s Supreme Court, according to Bloomberg.com.
ADP hired Redvanly in 1996 as Regional Controller for its Clifton service center, with Vice President Richard Feeney as her boss, court papers show.
Several years later, the decision says, Redvanly attended a seminar on financial accountability. After she returned, Redvanly warned Feeney by email that she “intended to disclose ADP’s alleged acts of over-billing clients,” as well as “improper billing related to a specific product series,” and other illegal actions.
The next day, Feeney asked Redvanly to attend a meeting which she said eventually “became hostile.” Feeney unloaded a “a profanity-laced, verbal assault,” including complaints about her management style, Redvanly said.
Six days later, Redvanly said, she again cited her audit’s disclosures and Feeney again got angry. By then, he’d also stopped having lunch with her, she said.
Redvanly was summoned to a meeting with the company’s National Human Resources roughly two weeks later, where she was terminated for “recent behavior,” court papers show. So she sued, citing retaliation.
Just before the trial, lawyers for ADP told Redvanly’s attorneys they had evidence that she’d misrepresented her employment history. Although she had listed “position eliminated” on her ADP application, the judges wrote, “Redvanly’s separation from NYNEX was not due to her position being eliminated.”
Redvanly had sued NYNEX for wrongful termination and settled the case for $210,000, with both sides signing a non-disclosure agreement. For its part, NYNEX agreed that it would provide only her dates of employment and last title held for reference checks.
For her part, Redvanly said she agreed not to disclose that she’d been terminated.
Falsifying an employment application was cause enough for her dismissal from ADP, the lawyers contended. What’s more, they said, ADP never would have hired her had they known what happened at NYNEX.
Redvanly argued that ADP lawyers couldn’t use such “after-acquired evidence” and that her agreement with NYNEX prohibited her from revealing what happened. But the judge allowed it, anyway.
Jurors later unanimously found that she failed to prove that ADP had done anything wrong.
The appeals judges had trouble with that.
“The after-acquired evidence is relevant and admissible only on the issue of damages,” they wrote. “Here, evidence of the ‘NYNEX issue’ was admitted before the jury determined defendants’ liability.
“This was improper because the impact of such evidence could have unduly prejudiced the jury against Redvanly.”
What the judge didn’t order, and the appeals court did, are two separate proceedings: the liability trial followed by a damages phase.
During the first trial, “there should be no proof, or even mention, of the after-acquired evidence defense,” the judges ruled.
Should Redvanly prevail during that first phase, “the after-acquired evidence can be admitted at the damages trial” under certain circumstances, the judges wrote.
No retrial date has been set.