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Taylor Swift groping trial raises issues of wrongful termination, sexual harassment

Readers who pay attention to pop culture and celebrity news may have heard that Taylor Swift has been in the news lately in connection with groping claims. What’s going on is this: she countersued a former radio DJ for assault and battery after he filed a defamation lawsuit in which he claimed entitlement to damages for his termination from the radio station where he formerly worked.

The firing occurred after the radio station got word that he had allegedly grabbed Taylor Swift’s behind during a backstage meet-and-greet in Denver. He accused her of lying in order to have him fired. While his claims were tossed out, she was successful with her counterclaims. There are a couple interesting issues at play in this case from the perspective of employment law. 

First of all, there is the issue of the radio station’s right to terminate the DJ from his position. As we’ve previously noted on this blog, the default rule in nearly every state is that employment is at-will, meaning that an employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, with certain exceptions.

Unless an employee has special contractual protections or the reason for termination was illegal, there is no basis for alleging wrongful termination when an employee is fired. If the radio station, in this case, wished to terminate the DJ from his position only because he upset an artist—allegations of groping aside—that would have been its right. This would be true even if the allegations of groping were ultimately false.

Then, there is the implicit issue of proving sexual harassment in the workplace. While Taylor Swift was not an employee of the radio station in this case, the litigation does raise the issue of how employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment on the job go about proving their claims. It isn’t necessarily always easy to do so. We’ll look further at this issue in a future post.