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Boss rescinds permission for Playboy shoot, fires employee

Employment contracts are an agreement between two parties. The employer may include certain restrictions such as a morality clause to ensure that the brand name is not tarnished in any way. These restrictions are not limitless in New Jersey, but the employee can agree to abide by them in exchange for compensation.

Even when a term is included in the contract, can a supervisor or employer waive it? Can the employer give preapproval that an action won’t have an adverse affect on performance reviews? Can an employee rely on this express authorization? These questions are the type that may have come up in a recent wrongful termination case involving a Playboy magazine photo shoot.

The case involves a 33-year-old woman who worked for the national company Charter Communications. When the woman was presented with the opportunity to compete with over 400 women for a spot in a Playboy magazine edition entitled “Hot Housewives,” she wanted to participate.

Knowing that experiences such as this one can elicit strong responses and criticism, she wanted to clear participation with her boss first. In the lawsuit, the woman claimed that she told her boss about the casting call and received verbal assurances that her job would not be jeopardized by her participation.

Later, when she won and the magazine issue was released, the woman was fired. Her supervisor stated that she had violated the “standards of common decency” set out by the company and documented in a “Corrective Action Report.” The boss denies giving any previous guarantees about her job.

This situation involves a lot of “he said, she said” testimony that may contradict an employment contract. An attorney experienced in these cases won’t stop with verbal allegations; the attorney will search for corroborating evidence to help support the claims that were made.

Source: Star Tribune, “Minn. mom’s suit says she was fired despite boss’ OK to pose for Playboy,” Paul Walsh, Oct. 1, 2013

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