The 180s company, known for its wrap-around ear muffs and other innovative products, has lost a lawsuit in a Baltimore court that charged the company with refusing to pay severance and bonuses to two employees who were fired after speaking up about low morale and mistreatment of other employees.
The two employees, the former vice president of marketing and development and a general manager for a business unit, were each awarded double the severance owed them when they were fired in 2005 under retention agreements put in place when the company was growing at breakneck pace under the former management team.
"Our lawsuit was about honoring a commitment," Dan Kinsbourne, the former vice president and now director of marketing at Sportline, told SNEWS®. "180s had the right to terminate us for speaking out if they so chose, but we had severance contracts, and a deal is a deal."
Pending possible appeals, Kinsbourne will receive a total of $230,000; Jason Goger, former general manager of the company's Gorgonz performance work gear unit, will receive $108,000.
Reportedly, the courtroom scene was a wild one and one well-suited for primetime TV dramas: On the sixth and last day of the trial, closing arguments were to begin about 10:30 a.m., SNEWS® was told by an attendee. Starting at about 10 a.m., dozens of ex-180s employees who had supported Kinsbourne's and Goger's actions in 2005 began to file into the huge courtroom and align themselves behind the plaintiffs on one side of the courtroom and situated in front of the jury. That group included ex-CEO and founder Brian LeGette. By half-way through the final arguments, a couple of dozen current employees filed in to fill the opposite side of the courtroom behind the current CEO. With the emotional crowd, the emotion and tension in closing arguments escalated, SNEWS® was told.
Attorneys for 180s had argued that Kinsbourne, Goger, and four other company managers who called for 180s CEO Susan Shafton's removal were not entitled to severance pay because they were fired for good cause.
By soon after lunch, the jury had the case and returned its verdict in just under two hours.
"This entire case has been standing up for what's right and standing up for the employees," Deborah Thompson Eisenberg of Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP, the plaintiffs' lawyer, told a local Baltimore paper. "I think the case sends a strong message that the executives in a company have a duty to respect their work force."