Fired couple awarded $3 million damagesA Baltimore County...


May 28, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

Fired couple awarded $3 million damages

A Baltimore County jury yesterday awarded nearly $3 million to a Catonsville couple who had been fired after claiming to find evidence their boss was stealing from the company.

The jury backed allegations by William and Joann Hardy that Phillip Berringer, president of Timonium-based National Computer Ribbons Corp., wrongfully discharged and defamed the couple.

Frank Bonaventure, an attorney for the company, said yesterday he would be "filing post-trial motions" but would have no comment on the decision. The award would be paid partly by the company and partly by Mr. Berringer.

The Hardys' attorney, Julie C. Janofsky, called the jury decision a vindication of a couple who helped start the business.

No criminal charges have been brought against Mr. Berringer or the company.

Mr. Hardy helped hire Mr. Berringer to run the fledgling computer ribbon manufacturer in the mid-1980s, Ms. Janofsky said.

But in 1991, he and his wife, who was a production manager, claimed to have discovered evidence that the company was sending checks to a phony subcontractor controlled by Mr. Berringer, she said.

They started investigating, but were fired by Mr. Berringer, who accused them of stealing money from the company, she said.

Mr. Berringer also fought their application for unemployment insurance, and that caused "terrible hardship" for the couple because the circumstances of their firing made it difficult to get new jobs, Ms. Janofsky said.

"They are on the verge of losing their house now. They have received notice that a foreclosure proceeding is under way," she said.

Mr. Hardy, who is still a stockholder in the closely held company and sits on its board, has filed a legal action to regain control of National Computer Ribbons.

The company, which has about 30 employees and about $4 million in annual sales, "could be a good company," Ms. Janofsky said.

Students partly blamed for failure to get jobs

This year's dismal job market for college seniors caused some soul-searching at last week's Baltimore convention of the Mid-Atlantic Placement Association, the group that represents college career counselors.

In a speech and question-and-answer session at the Hyatt Regency, Stephen Lambert, director of the career development office at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire, said he's concluded that colleges, counselors and students themselves share part of the blame for students' troubles getting jobs.

"Colleges place very few demands" on students, he said, explaining that students can skip classes, dress as they like and say nothing during discussions, but still get a diploma.

So it's no surprise that many students have trouble meeting the demands of companies that require punctuality, appropriate dress and competence, he said.

College is "a cocoon . . . a prolonged adolescence. There are no provisions to be socialized into adult life." Each May you can almost hear "the sharp intake of breath as seniors confront the real world of work."

Despite the advice of counselors, most college students refuse to confront the difficult task of finding a job that is right for them, Mr. Lambert said. He joked that he has staff members assigned to hold his arms each May so he doesn't strangle "the art history major who says: 'Hi. I'm graduating next week and I need help on my resume.' "

He also said that counselors may contribute to the lack of preparation. Sometimes, he said, he feels like "part of the conspiracy" that makes the world of work "seem less harsh" than it really is.

Community colleges termed good bargain

As the cost of a four-year college degree soars, studies show two-year community colleges may be a cost-effective alternative.

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that people with four years of college study earned about 15 percent more than those whose education stopped with high school.

But the 4 percent wage premium per year of college education also holds true for community college graduates, the NBER found. Community college graduates earned about 8 percent more than people who attended no college.

And don't worry if you never graduated. The study found it was the course work, not the credentials, that determined salary.

2 firms, trade group cited for helping aged

Two area companies and a trade association won national honors this week for their donations and employee support for charities assisting the elderly.

The U.S. Administration of Aging named Hechinger Co. of Landover and Delaware-based MBNA America, the credit card spinoff of MNC Financial Inc., two of 10 "exemplary" companies for 1993.

Also honored was the Home Builders Association of Maryland.

Members donated time to fix homes of the elderly, using materials donated by Hechinger, as part of the state's "Senior Housepitality" program.

MBNA, which has 500 workers in Towson, was honored for its donations and employee volunteer assistance to programs such as Meals on Wheels.

Peter Osborne, spokesman for MBNA, said the employees volunteer during their lunch hours to help deliver meals to the elderly, and the company often gives them paid time off during the day to complete their rounds.

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