Court Actions

June 22, 1993|By Washington Bureau

The Supreme Court issued a series of orders yesterday with these results:


Workplace bias. The court agreed to decide, at its next term starting in October, whether a company will be excused for firing a worker because of sex, race, religion or ethnic identity, if the company discovers later that there was a good reason to justify the firing. The issue arises in the case of a "campus cop" at a small college in Michigan who claimed she was fired because she was a woman. Although that firing was ruled illegal, a federal appeals court said the woman suffered no legal wrong because the company learned later that she had lied on her original job application.

Hospital staff. In another job rights case, the court said it would rule on the legality of an Illinois public hospital's firing of a nurse who had complained to colleagues that there were not enough nurses to care for the patients. A lower court ruled that government officials may not fire a worker for speaking out on a public issue -- such as the adequacy of staffing in a hospital ward. But officials of the Illinois hospital said they did not know that the nurse had made such a complaint and that they had fired her out of a mistaken belief that she had simply been insubordinate. The lower court said their belief was beside the point.

Trash disposal. The court agreed to decide whether a 1976 federal law requires operators of plants that burn up ordinary trash to use care when they dispose of ashes that contain hazardous residues. The issue arose in a case involving the city of Chicago, which is trying to get an exemption from tight hazardous waste controls when it disposes of ashes from an ordinary trash incinerator.


Maryland escape. The court, without comment, refused to block a damages lawsuit in Maryland state courts by an Oxon Hill couple, Thomas and Mary Hansford, against the District of Columbia government over the 1987 murder of their son, Thomas Hanford Jr., 21. The Hansfords' lawsuit contends that the district government was responsible because it had allowed their son's murderer, Carl Sewanti Richardson, to escape from a Oak Hill juvenile detention center near Laurel. Maryland's Court of Appeals permitted the lawsuit to go forward, rejecting the district government's claim of legal immunity in Maryland courts.

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