Montana congressional candidate settled lawsuit with employee who said he was fired for having MS
Republican Montana Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte (Photo: Facebook)

Republican Montana Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte settled a lawsuit from an employee that alleged he was fired after revealing he had multiple sclerosis.

According to the court filings from 1991, John Cardinale of New Jersey sued Brightwork Development, Inc. and Gianforte along with it. Brightwork was the software company Gianforte co-founded in 1986 and later sold to McAfee Associates in 1994. Cardinale was working at another company and was recruited to work for Brightwork and told he would earn $30,000 annually. "Brightwork was a growing company and promised [Cardinale] that as long as he performed, he would always have a job" with the company.

Cardinale did his job "faithfully" while employed by the company, the case outlines. He was reportedly, "never reprimanded or warned concerning his work performance or other performance." Gianforte also provided Cardinale with a letter of recommendation calling him an "excellent worker" when he was terminated.

In March of 1990, Cardinale was hospitalized but returned to work after receiving treatment. He continued to succeed at the company, his sales increased and he was even awarded the best salesperson at the company a year after his diagnosis for two months in a row. But at the end of the month, documents reveal Cardinale was hospitalized again for treatment for five days. That's when he told another employee, Robert Wass, about what was going on. Wass told Cardinale that his wife also suffered from MS and some mornings it was so difficult for her that he literally had to lift her out of bed.

The next month, Nov. 1990, Cardinale was called into Gianforte's office where the company's president told his employee that he'd heard about Cardinale being diagnosed with MS.

Gianforte "asked plaintiff what MS affected and why plaintiff was in the hospital," the documents outline. "He asked plaintiff what the MS was affecting now. Plaintiff responded that it did not affect his job performance at all," citing his sales records. From that day until his termination, plaintiff was asked by defendants Wass and Gianforte why he was eating certain foods, if he had taken his medication and if he was sure he could 'handle' his job."

At the beginning of Jan. 1991, Cardinale was called to a sales meeting with his team of four other people. Wass told the team "that everything was going well and would be getting back to normal with a return to work of one of the absent members." Cardinale asked a question about it and "Wass stated that there would be no surprises."

Just a few hours later, Cardinale was called into a conference room with Wass and was told he was being terminated. Wass handed Cardinale two letters of recommendation signed by the two defendants describing him as "effective and diligent" "professional" and "committed." The letters also said that his position was being eliminated. He was given two weeks salary and sent on his way.

According to the company handbook, severance pay is only granted to an employee when his or her services are no longer needed. Cardinale's position wasn't eliminated, in fact, another staffer from another department was brought in to fill the position. No junior sales people on the team were terminated.

Two years later, Cardinale's attorneys filed another court document saying they were withdrawing the suit, saying it was "amicably adjusted by and between the plaintiff John Cardinale and the defendant Brightwork Development, Inc., it is hereby stipulated and agreed that the same be and it is hereby dismissed with prejudice as against all defendants."

RawStory reached out to Gianforte's campaign for comment as well as Democratic challenger Rob Quist's campaign. Neither provided a comment.

The court documents are below:

Montana congressional candidate settled lawsuit with employee who said he was fired for having MS by Sarah Burris on Scribd