What a way to go out — from a job, that is.
In what he should have known was his “Take This Job and Shove It” moment, Michael Kaye, a reference librarian at the San Diego County Public Law Library unloaded on his bosses — Joan Allen-Hart and Robert Riger — in a 2006 e-mail blast sent out to the entire staff.
It was hot stuff, with Kaye accusing Allen-Hart and Riger of treating reference librarians as “fungible and disposable peons,” creating a “hostile and insulting work environment” and running an autocracy.
“Let the managers make their decisions without any pretense of collaboration,” he wrote with flare, “and hand down their fiats from on high.”
Well, that's not going to go well ...
Kaye’s rage — which appears to have built up for a long time — exploded in March 2006 after Allen-Hart questioned why Kaye, who taught the library’s appellate course for self-represented litigants, had been invited to serve as a panel member on an Administrative Office of the Courts’ program on that very topic. She felt the invite hadn’t gone through the proper chain of command.
Kaye characterized the inquiry as “vindictive, retaliatory, disgusting, degrading and utterly unprofessional” and called into question his superiors’ motives. He felt Allen-Hart and Riger were harassing him into early retirement.
Kaye was fired in August 2006 after a lengthy investigation, but he sued for wrongful termination. Today, San Diego’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court ruling dismissing his case (.pdf).
Justice Judith McConnell held, among other things, that Kaye’s firing didn’t violate his right to free speech or the whistle-blower protections of the California False Claims Act.
“The undisguised purpose of the e-mail was to complain about the inquiry into Kaye’s speaking invitation,” McConnell wrote, “not to report or initiate an investigation into a false claim.
“A disgruntled employee’s expression of dissatisfaction with his treatment on the job,” she added, “is not protected activity.”
Give Kaye credit, though. He went out kicking and screaming in the best Johnny Paycheck fashion.
— Mike McKee