In another favorable decision for employers, a California court of appeal ruled that Kaiser Permanente properly investigated and terminated an employee who operated a personal business on company time using company resources. In Loggins v. Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser received an anonymous tip that one of its employees, Ms. Loggins, was using company resources for her personal home business. Kaiser policy allowed occasional and limited personal use of company electronic assets if such usage did not interfere with work. But the policy expressly prohibited such personal use to conduct an outside business.
Although Loggins denied working on her home business at work, Kaiser’s investigation (including the interview of 13 witnesses, and an extensive review of electronic and time records) revealed that: (1) a substantial portion of her use of her work computer and of Kaiser’s email, fax and printer systems was related to her home business; (2) Loggins publicized her Kaiser phone line as the number for her home business; and (3) Loggins spent a week attending a seminar related to her home business while being paid by Kaiser.
As a result, Kaiser terminated Loggins, an African-American woman employee of 24 years. She sued, alleging race discrimination and retaliation for complaining about discrimination. Loggins asserted that other non-African American employees used Kaiser facilities and electronic resources to sell Girl Scout cookies, Little League candy, Avon and Tupperware products, etc. However, the investigation showed that such activities were de minimis compared to Loggins’ substantial misuse of company resources. Further, the court held that the close proximity in time between Loggins’ discrimination complaint and her termination was, standing alone, insufficient to avoid dismissal, and that she failed to present other evidence to rebut Kaiser’s extensive evidence of a non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory basis for her termination.