It turns out that the creep who secretly shot nude videos of ESPN’s Erin Andrews also left his former employer holding a can of worms.
Fortunately for the employer, last week a federal judge ruled that a former employee must arbitrate personal injury claims that she, too, was a victim of secret video recording.
In December 2009, Michael David Barrett pleaded guilty to interstate stalking after federal investigators determined that he was responsible for nude videos of Andrews that showed up on the Internet. Barrett had shot the videos through hotel peepholes.
Prosecutors say that at least 16 other women were victims of the 50-year-old Chicago insurance executive.
According to a lawsuit filed in federal court, one of those victims is a female insurance executive who worked under Barrett at Combined Insurance Company of America, which is headquartered in Glenview, Illinois.
Jamie Brubaker became a branch manager for the insurance company in 2007. Barrett was her boss and, according to Brubaker, he videoed her in the nude by aiming a cell phone camera through hotel peepholes when she attended company training seminars.
Barrett allegedly sold those videos in Europe for distribution on the worldwide web.
Brubaker filed her lawsuit in November 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. She wants damages from Combined Insurance and its parent company, ACE Group of Companies.
In her complaint, Brubaker claims that her now former employers are liable for sexual harassment, negligence, invasion of privacy and both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In addition, Brubaker alleged that the embarrassment and emotional trauma she suffered caused her to resign in 2010, so she wants damages for constructive discharge.
The first major development in the case came last week when U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Phillips ruled that Brubaker’s lawsuit is subject to arbitration under an employment agreement that she signed when ACE purchased Combined Insurance in 2008.
In particular, the judge concluded that the employer’s arbitration clause was plainly broad enough to encompass Brubaker’s claims.
He explained that Brubaker “agreed to submit to arbitration ‘all employment-related disagreements and problems that concern … employment discrimination conditions of employment or termination of employment.’”
The judge concluded that the Brubaker’s “sexual harassment claim is clearly an action based upon ‘employment discrimination,’ and therefore is subject to arbitration. The constructive discharge claim — that Plaintiff resigned from ACE because of Mr. Barrett’s alleged actions — is related to ‘termination of employment,’ and therefore is also subject to arbitration.”
As to tort claims, the judge said that Brubaker’s negligent supervision claim also is subject to arbitration because “it relates to both ‘employment discrimination’ and ‘conditions of employment’ (whether Combined Insurance or ACE should have fired Mr. Barrett).” (Brubaker v. Barrett)
Notably, the court ruled that Brubaker also must arbitrate her emotional distress and invasion of privacy claims.
So Brubaker’s lawsuit is stayed pending arbitration. Meanwhile, Barrett is serving a 30-month prison term on the federal charges in the Erin Andrews case.
— Pat Murphy