The background facts are fairly straightforward. As First Assistant Manager at the East Peoria restaurant, Gorrell was one of five statutory supervisors and was second in command to General Manager Andy Dunlap. Gorrell was in charge of the night shift, a responsibility assumed by Second Assistant Manager Mark Weaver on Gorrell's scheduled days off. Gorrell enjoyed a close working relationship with the hourly employees under her supervision. Individual employees frequently turned to her for comfort and counsel over work-related problems and she in turn mediated their grievances with her superiors. These grievances ranged from seemingly trivial disagreements over day-to-day restaurant practices to serious complaints, such as management and supervisor harassment of female and minority employees and an arbitrary termination of employment. Gorrell also socialized with the night-shift employees, many of whom were welcomed as guests at her home.
Ironically, the events that precipitated Gorrell's departure from the ranks of Bob Evans took place on a scheduled day off for Gorrell, Sunday October 15, 1995. Weaver--who was supervising the night shift--was evidently in over his head. A lack of staff and a shortage of food generated intense customer dissatisfaction. Two of the employees telephoned Gorrell who came in, took over the shift and restored order. Weaver was left in no doubt of Gorrell's displeasure and her exasperation at Manager Dunlap's apparent inability to run the restaurant. At about 10:00 p.m., shortly before closing time, Gorrell convened an impromptu pizza party in the restaurant area which degenerated into a raucous food fight. She neither encouraged nor condemned these antics, choosing instead to sit at the counter with other employees drinking alcohol under Weaver's watchful eye. At about 4:00 a.m., the merry troop left the restaurant to continue the festivities at Gorrell's house. Unfortunately, just two hours later and still inebriated, Gorrell had to catch a ride to a pre-scheduled management meeting in the company of Bob Evans Area Director, Dave Ward.
Gorrell's next scheduled shift was Friday October 20, 1995. At about 4:00 p.m., Dunlap called Gorrell into his office and, after a heated exchange, informed her that her services were no longer required. Several night-shift employees who were preparing to come on duty had gathered near Dunlap's office and watched events unfold. As Gorrell left she told them that she had been fired and within a matter of minutes fifteen employees had walked off the job. They congregated outside the restaurant entrance for five to ten minutes and conversed with approaching customers, inevitably encouraging some to dine elsewhere.
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
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