BB&T Wins Summary Judgment in Virginia Employment Case

Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished, a former employee of BB&T Insurance Services to whom BB&T graciously paid 30 days of severance pay despite terminating his employment for cause–and apparently without requiring the employee to sign a release–sued the company for wrongful termination. On June 17, 2009, however, Judge Wilson of the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg had “no hesitancy” in tossing out the case on summary judgment.

The employee’s job duties involved identifying, contacting, and providing services to existing and potential new insurance customers. To assist him in performing those duties, BB&T allowed him to use a company laptop with access to confidential files on the company’s network. At the time of his termination, the employee had 8 years’ worth of sensitive client information stored on his laptop.

While traveling, the employee left the laptop unattended overnight in his vehicle while it was parked in a hotel parking lot. It was stolen. When BB&T learned of the theft, it notifiedlaptop.jpg those of its clients affected by the data breach and offered them a credit-monitoring service. These programs cost the company over $24,000.

BB&T fired the employee for “cause,” defined in the parties’ employment agreement as “termination…for failure of Employee to adhere, after Employee has received written notice from [the Company] of such failure, and been given 30 days in which to cure such failure (if such failure can be cured), in any material respects to written policies, procedures, and the Code of Ethics established from time to time by [the Company]….” BB&T had distributed policies indicating in clear terms that all employees in possession of sensitive company information were obligated to protect the information, which duty included specifically a prohibition against leaving laptops unattended in vehicles.

The court threw out the employee’s breach-of-contract case, rejecting his arguments that he was not bound by the parent company’s policies, and that even if he were, he should have been given 30 days in which to “cure” the violation. The court found both arguments entirely lacking in merit, writing that no jury could reasonably agree with them.

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