Patricia Kunkle of Kettering, Ohio, claimed that Dayton-based Q-Mark, Inc., threatened to fire employees of the defense contractor if Obama won re-election, with the president’s supporters to be the first to receive pink slips, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Kunkle said she had a conversation the day after Election Day that indicated she voted for Obama. She was fired three days later.
Q-Mark and its president and founder, Roberta “Bobbie” Gentile, denied the allegations and said Kunkle was fired for “economic reasons.” The company said it was experiencing tough times due to harsh economic conditions.
The suit alleged that Gentile made conversation with employees to determine their political affiliations, and then she disparaged supporters of the president, the Daily News reported.
Kunkle’s attorney, Karen Dunlevey, lashed out at Q-Mark over the Ohio woman’s termination.
“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, taking it to the extreme of impairing somebody’s career because they disagree with your political choices is just wrong,” Dunlevey told the Daily News. “We’re hoping that the court will recognize that and adopt a public policy exception for her.”
Gentile’s attorney, Brian Wildermuth, disputed Dunlevey’s claims.
“Ms. Kunkle was laid off for economic reasons -- nothing more,” he said in a statement to the Ohio paper. “I am sure you and your readers are familiar with the ongoing uncertainties regarding defense spending, and thus the economic environment confronting defense contractors. The allegation that Q-Mark discharged Ms. Kunkle because of her vote is simply false.”
According to the lawsuit, Kunkle was a model employee who performed her work “efficiently and effectively” at Q-Mark. She was hired as a temporary worker in April 2012, reaching full-time status in May 2012, the Daily News reported. The suit also claimed Kunkle was never disciplined at the company for bad performance or had any negative evaluations.
The case has implications for Ohio employment law should Kunkle win the lawsuit, according to Richard Sapphire, a law professor at the University of Dayton Law School.
“It’s just a question of if you have a statute that affects, or to some extent, modifies, an employment relationship, and what does the statute say and does the statute apply in this situation and can she claim the protection of the statute,” Saphire said, referring to Ohio’s at-will employment provisions. “She either can or she can’t. The court’s going to interpret the statute in light of what it sees as the relevant facts in this case and decide one way or the other.”