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Wrongful termination claim moves forward for executive chef

In California, there may be a legitimate cause for termination for employees. However, by that same token, there are cases where an employee is let go and that termination is a violation(s) of state or federal law. Such was the case when the Thunderbird Country Club let its executive chef go after the chef suffered a life-threatening illness. That same chef has now won a key ruling in his wrongful termination claim.

The chef is suing the club in U.S. District Court on grounds that his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) were violated. On November 2 of this year, the judge hearing the case granted the man's request for summary judgment, which allows the case to move forward into the damages phase. Judge Gee wrote, "Thunderbird fails to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether it terminated (the chef) due to a legitimate business need."

According to court documents, the chef suffered severe complications after a surgery for a hernia and had to be placed into a medically induced coma for two months. In August of 2010, the man was brought out of the coma and sent home. By the time he returned to work, the club had hired another executive chef stating that the man's "key management" position exempted him from Family Medical Leave Act rules. This case is set to go to jury trial in January.

When employees believe that they have wrongful termination claim, one possible step forward would be to contact an experienced California area attorney who specializes in this field of law. An attorney may be able to assist the employee in determining if a legitimate cause for termination exists or if it does not. If not, an attorney may be able to share with the employee what the available options are for the individual.

Source: The Desert Sun, "Ruling in wrongful termination suit favors former Thunderbird chef," Blake Herzog, Nov. 8, 2011

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