Miller Barondess Prevails On Summary Judgment Motion In Tough Employment Case

As reported in the Daily Journal, on March 7, 2019, Miller Barondess, LLP prevailed on a summary judgment motion on behalf of Applied Merchant Systems West Coast LLC (AMS), an employer in a wrongful termination case brought by a former vice president of the company. Per the ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney, employers have a clear path to fire workers who misuse or share privileged information in violation of company policies.  The payment processing company, represented by Casey Sypek and Mira Hashmall, filed a cross-complaint against the former employee, Jeffrey Gallo, that is still at issue and likely to go to trial.

Gallo failed to show AMS breached his employment contract, defrauded him, wrongfully terminated him, or wrongfully demoted him, according to Mooney’s judgment. “It really made it clear that an employers’ reasonable belief that an employee engaged in misconduct will be a legitimate non-retaliatory reason for terminating an employee,” Sypek said.

As a vice president, Gallo was assigned to manage a portfolio from client relationship management to product development, according to court documents. His role as vice president made him privy to trade secrets and sensitive company strategies.  Gallo shared information about the company’s potential acquisitions and partner merchant pricing with the former CEO and his father, both of whom were in active litigation against AMS.

The company said it fired Gallo for his breaches of confidentiality and because he admitted to his bosses that he abandoned his job. When AMS placed Gallo on paid administrative leave in January 2017, company representatives contacted him to get a description of his duties. He replied. “I don’t do anything.”  During the two years of his tenure, Gallo kept odd hours, showing up sporadically and leaving early. His office time was spent playing online poker, according to the cross-complaint.

“Mr. Gallo has admitted to diverting funds from my client’s account to his own personal bank account,” Sypek said. This is part of AMS’ cross-complaint, she said. AMS accused Gallo of waging a campaign to undermine its business after being fired in February 2018, according to the cross complaint.