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photo collage of van den Berg Hall, the clock tower, Dean Hadi Salavitabar, and undergraduate student Jumpei Onozuka

News Releases

SUNY New Paltz Students and HR Professionals Hold Mock Court Case

03/04/2008

NEW PALTZ -- This past fall, business students and human resource professionals gathered together to learn about workplace discrimination and harassment during a simulated mock employment court trial. The event was held on campus at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz during the annual joint chapter meeting between the SUNY New Paltz Management Association and the Mid-Hudson Human Resources Association (MHHRA).

To get the event underway, students and business professionals conversed during dinner and participated in a networking activity designed to promote interaction between professionals and students. In particular, the joint chapter meeting enabled students to network with business professionals to learn about internship and job opportunities, attain career advice, and explore the field of human resources as a career.

Following dinner, over 74 participants participated in a mock human resource court trial facilitated by Jackson Lewis LLP, a national workplace law firm. The simulated employment case was based on the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and focused on the characters in the “Friends” television show. The jury found that the organization of Central Perk Inc. was not guilty of discrimination against its former employee, Monica Geller, who was fired as Regional Manager of Central Perk after she disclosed her lesbian relationship with a direct report. Geller sued Central Perk Inc., alleging sexual orientation discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Executive board members of the SUNY New Paltz Management Association acted as witnesses in the court trial. Kristina Marsella played the role of Monica Geller, who accused Phoebe Buffay, played by Lauren Guido, of firing her because of her sexual orientation. Craig Lecker played the role of Chandler Bing, Human Resources Manager of Central Perk.

The audience jury deliberated about the facts of the case, witness testimony, and deposition testimony and decided that Central Perk Inc. lawfully fired Geller because she engaged in conduct that was in violation of its policies such as harassment, close relationships, and conflicts of interest. Despite Geller’s disclosure to her supervisors that she was in a committed relationship with a female employee, the jury determined that she wasn’t terminated because of her sexual orientation, which is a violation of New York State’s Human Rights Law.

Susan Corcoran, a partner of Jackson Lewis who served as Judge of the mock court trial, said “the goal of the mock trial was achieved-- providing the audience with a simulated sexual orientation discrimination trial, while simultaneously emphasizing how employers need to be pro-active in ensuring a workplace free from any form of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation.”

"I thought the mock trial provided a fun look at some of the very real issues frequently faced by both HR professionals and employees in general,” remarked Michael L. Abitabilo, an attorney from Jackson Lewis in White Plains, NY.

In addition, students also enjoyed their experience learning why workplace discrimination and harassment are important issues in today’s workplace and helping support the human resource profession. "The mock trial was an excellent hands-on opportunity to display the hard work and talents of the Management Association members at SUNY New Paltz. The trial gave us a great, inside look of what the real world has to offer, and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to participate in it," said Craig Lecker. “It was a fun way to take what we learn in the classroom and put it into play in the real world,” added Lauren Guido.

The Management Association is the SUNY New Paltz student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and MHHRA is its parent professional chapter. For more information about the affiliation please visit http://midhudsonhr.shrm.org.