SUMMARY JUDGMENT REVERSED IN WRONGFUL TERMINATION CASE

A woman who was employed as the manager at Barnes & Noble located on the campus of the West Valley-Mission Community College in Saratoga from 2002 to 2010, has was determined to have been wrongfully terminated. She worked before that for the company for another 15 years in various jobs.

She was given a copy of the code of conduct and ethics for the company that listed her employment as “at-will.” She acknowledged receipt of the code of conduct in 1999 and she had signed off on it. She was never promised an employee contract or tenure.

The woman received performance reviews each year that said she lacked organizational skills and communication skills. The dates of the reviews specifically citing this were from 2001 to 2008. Total scores on her reviews showed that she had met the “applicable standards and met or exceeded standards in most individual categories.” However, in 2009, her book store had an excess inventory worth $66,000, which got her a below standard rating for the category of fiscal matters.

The woman tried to argue that she was dealing with discrimination with the college’s liaison. Eventually, in 2010, the college president and the liaison got in touch with the woman’s supervisor and said that “[the] plaintiff was not a good fit for the campus.” She filed a complaint against Barnes & Noble in 2012. The complaint also included the college and the college president.

In 2013, the company asked for a summary judgment, telling the court that the woman “was an at-will employee who was terminated for legitimate business reasons.” The woman said she was fired due to gender discrimination because the company did not protect her from the liaison’s sexual harassment.

The appeals court said that neither the plaintiff nor the defendants were favored by the definition of “at-will” employment.” As a result, the woman’s testimony should be heard at trial. The summary judgment was reversed.

Those who believe they have been terminated due to discrimination of protected classhave a right to seek compensation after filing a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. An attorney can help you learn more about the options that are available to fight such a claim.

Source: Northern California Record, “Wrongful termination lawsuit against Barnes & Noble moves forward,” Angela Underwood, May 01, 2017

HOW DO I KNOW IF I WAS WRONGFULLY TERMINATED FROM A JOB?

Being let go from a job is a difficult experience, especially when the termination comes as a surprise. You might wonder if you have a case for wrongful termination. This is a question that can be complex to answer.

Before you decide that you are going to take legal action, you should take the time to familiarize with some basic points related to wrongful termination.

What, exactly, is wrongful termination?

Wrongful termination occurs when you are fired from a job for an illegal reason. The “illegal reason” component is the key to this type of issue. Employers have the right to fire employees for no reason, but when the reason is covered under certain laws, you might have a legal case.

What are some examples of wrongful termination?

One example of a wrongful termination is a retaliatory firing. This situation occurs if you make a complaint about something that is going on in the business, such as a sexual harassment complaint, and you are fired because of that complaint. Another example would be if you are fired because of a protected status, such as being a specific faith, gender or race.

Proving wrongful termination is often difficult, but it isn’t impossible. You can often look into the circumstances just prior to the termination to determine what you should do. For example, if you have always gotten great evaluations and then are fired shortly after you filed a complaint about a manager making an inappropriate remark, you may have a case for wrongful termination. Carefully consider the options that you have for handling your case.

Source: FindLaw, “Was I Wrongfully Discharged From My Job?,” accessed April 21, 2017

IF YOU WITNESS WRONGDOING AT WORK, DO YOU HAVE TO TESTIFY?

There are times when something happens at work and all anybody wants to do is to stay as far removed from the whole mess and hope it goes away.

Unfortunately, if you’re a witness to some sort of misconduct that ends up in litigation, you can end up being called on to testify. Depending on who engaged in the misconduct and who calls on you, you may be asked to testify against a current or former co-worker (who may also be a friend) or against your employer. Neither may sound like a comfortable situation—but do you have any choice?

Probably not. If you’re called on in a case by your employer to testify in a hearing before a disciplinary committee or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to determine if there was a valid, non-discriminatory reason for disciplining or firing an employee, you have an obligation to assist your employer in the effective running of the business.

If you refuse, you could be justifiably charged with insubordination and disciplined or fired yourself. That could leave you in a position that you can’t easily overcome because the employer would be justified.

If another employee calls on you to testify and you’re not in a court setting, you may not be legally required to testify—but that may just be delaying the inevitable. Consider this; if the employee loses his or her case outside of the court only because you don’t testify, the next step will probably be to take the litigation into the courtroom where you’ll be summoned through a subpoena.

Once that happens, there are very few legal justifications that will stop the court from forcing you to testify.

Your best option if either side calls you is to testify to what you saw or know as truthfully as possible to the best of your recollection. If your employer takes issue with your testimony and discharges you in retaliation on some pretext that you know is a smokescreen for their anger, you may have to contact an attorney for yourself about a wrongful termination claim.

Source: FindLaw, “May the Court Force Me to Testify?,” accessed Feb. 17, 2017

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PREGNANCY: YOU’RE FIRED!

Most California employers understand that overall productivity and profitability in the workplace tends to soar when workers are in safe environments, offered competitive wages and treated fairly in the workplace. Still, plenty of workers suffer from adverse events every year, including wrongful terminations, bullying and multiple forms of discrimination by their employers.

While certain topics pertain to men and women alike, some seem to affect one group more than the other. For instance, can you imagine being a woman who excitedly shares news at work that you are expecting a baby? Many people smile and share in your joy, including your boss, who shakes your hand in congratulations. Next thing you know, you’re in your boss’s office and you are unjustifiably, permanently relieved of your duties.

Is that legal?

A justifiable termination from your work position while pregnant is obviously possible, so long as your boss hasn’t broken any laws in doing so. However, firing you because you’re pregnant is definitely against the law.

How to protect your rights

With the roller-coaster economy of recent years, you may be like millions of others across the nation who greatly depend on every cent of their incomes to make ends meet. Unexpectedly losing your job could place you and your family at risk for financial disaster. It’s bad enough losing a job under any circumstances, much less when you know your boss did something illegal. Taking the following steps may help rectify the situation:

  • Seek clarification: There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking your boss to clarify his or her reasons for firing you.
  • Resist urge to retaliate: Yelling at your boss, writing a nasty letter or otherwise acting negatively toward him or her will likely only make your situation worse. It is best to avoid retaliation.
  • Call a lawyer: Experienced employment attorneys address these types of situations often. Generally speaking, immediately reaching out for support often proves beneficial in the long run.

Having a baby is typically an exciting, joyful experience, not grounds for termination of employment. It’s understandable that wrongfully losing your job would cause tremendous emotional upset in addition to any financial hardship you suffer in the process. While there is a way to right such situations, it is often complicated and stressful. Many others who have been where you are now have allowed experienced California attorneys to act on their behalves in court, not only to alleviate stress but to obtain as swift and positive of outcomes as possible.

FIRED UNIVERSITY WORKERS SAY THEY WERE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST

A number of Information Technology workers at University of California, San Francisco saw their employment come to an end when they were fired and their jobs were outsourced to foreign workers. Now, they’re suing the school. They want to get their jobs back, and they also want to stop other schools in California from doing the same thing.

The workers are claiming they are being discriminated against on the grounds of age and national origin. First off, they claim that preference is being given to workers from India over workers from the United States. They also claim that the jobs are going to young men, and that they were fired in part for being “too old.” This also implies that sexual discrimination could come into play if male workers get preference.

CAN I LOSE MY JOB FOR TAKING CARE OF MY LOVED ONE?

If you are caring for a loved one who is seriously ill or disabled, you know that it requires many hours and tireless dedication. This obligation will likely conflict with your work schedule and you may feel that your job is in danger due to the amount of time that you have missed.

Thankfully, laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protect your right to care for a loved one without fear of retaliation. Despite the presence of federal laws to prevent it, California employers may ignore these regulations and unlawfully dismiss an employee for missing significant time from work, despite that individual being well within the boundaries of employee rights.

Your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act

According to the FMLA, eligible employees in certain situations have the right to unpaid leave without fear of losing their jobs. The maximum amount of protected time available under this law is 12 weeks within a 12-month period and is available under the following circumstances:

  • The birth of a child or any care needed by the child in the first 12 months of life
  • The placement of a new foster or adopted child into the worker’s family
  • A serious health condition that makes it impossible for the worker to do his or her job
  • Caring for a parent, spouse, child or close family member with a serious illness
  • Situations that would require one to miss work in order to address issues involving an active duty military spouse, child or parent

It is illegal for an employer to fire or retaliate in any way against an employee who uses his is or her rightful leave per the FMLA.

Protect your rights against employer retaliation

If you were fired, threatened with termination or faced retaliation because you took leave to care for a loved one, you have the right to take legal action. Unlawful dismissal is grounds for a civil claim, and it is important to protect your rights by securing the help of an experienced attorney as early as possible. An experienced lawyer can determine if you have grounds to proceed with legal recourse and guide you through a complex and potentially contentious wrongful termination.

FORMER EXECUTIVE SUES YAHOO! FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION

A former Yahoo! Inc. executive is suing the Internet giant for wrongful termination. The suit, which was filed this month in a San Jose federal court, is also charging gender discrimination at the company’s Sunnyvale headquarters. He’s seeking unspecified damages for violations of state and federal employment laws and discrimination.

The man, who worked as a senior director in the company’s editorial division for three years. He was terminated in January of last year. He says that there was no valid reason for his termination. The plaintiff alleges that the company’s quarterly evaluation system, under its chief executive officer Marissa Mayer, is unfair.

According to the lawsuit, under the quarterly review program, executives were able to manipulate performance reviews in order to cut operating costs and bring more diversity to the Silicon Valley company. Under Mayer’s tenure, the number of women in leadership positions grew 1 percent between 2014 and 2015. The suit compares the company’s performance review system to “employee stacking” programs at large companies like General Electric and Microsoft that are no longer used.

A spokesperson for Yahoo! says that she couldn’t comment on the specific case. She emphasized the company’s commitment to diversity said that “the quarterly performance-review process is not only fair but has improved our overall performance.”

The plaintiff is now working for the Silicon Valley Business Journal as its editor-in-chief.

Taking legal action against a former employer, let alone going up against one this large and powerful, can be daunting. However, if you have a valid discrimination or sexual harassment case, an experienced California employment attorney can work to seek appropriate compensation for you.

Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal, “Lawsuit alleges Yahoo engaged in discrimination under Mayer’s watch,” Jon Wile and Craig Douglas, Oct. 07, 2016

GOVERNOR VETOES BILL TO EXTEND FAMILY LEAVE RIGHTS AT SMALL BUSINESSES

The United States is thought of a leader in many areas, but we appear to be behind on one issue: family leave. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized country in the world that does not ensure a job once parents return from family leave. Recently California work-life advocates pushed for a bill which would have required small businesses to guarantee employees’ jobs after parental leave. The bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The bill would have required small businesses of fewer than 49 employees to give employees up to six weeks off of work after childbirth or adoption. Governor Brown said that the reasoning behind the veto was that the law would bring yet another expensive restriction to small businesses which already face enough challenges.

California law still goes beyond federal law

Fortunately larger employers are currently required by law to provide job protection after family leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Parents can take up to 12 weeks off without pay after childbirth or adoption without losing their jobs.

In California, despite Gov. Brown’s recent veto, workers also still have certain protections that go beyond the federal FMLA. Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an employee at a business that employs 50 or more people can take unpaid leave not only for the birth or adoption of a child, but for caregiving purposes for a close family member (child, parent or spouse).

Even further assistance is available through the state’s temporary disability program. This program is called Paid Family Leave (PFL). It is part a larger program called the State Disability Insurance Program (SDI). Under the program all workers who take family leave can receive up to 55 percent of their wages for up to 6 weeks.

Most families cannot take the additional coverage

Although anyone can use the disability program, employees at smaller companies could still find themselves unemployed in the end. According to the U.S. Department of Labor only 16 percent who were eligible for leave under the FMLA took it, and only one in five were due to a pregnancy. Instead of taking time away for their new baby many parents are pressured into using their small amount of vacation time or skipping parental leave all together.

If your employer has discriminated against you or a loved one for the birth of a child then contact an attorney. You and your family have rights under California law and may be eligible to recover damages in a law suit.

BARTENDER ALLEGES PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION

A bartender from Los Angeles, California, is seeking compensation for wrongful termination after she was allegedly fired from her job for wearing outfits that were too conservative. The woman, who was pregnant at the time of her termination, is alleging that the owners of The King’s Head II pub on Ventura Boulevard discriminated against her because of her wardrobe choices and the fact that she was planning to have a child.

The owners of the facility are facing allegations of pregnancy discrimination, along with negligence, wrongful termination, failure to prevent discrimination and infliction of emotional distress, among other claims. The woman is seeking unspecified monetary damages in connection with the employment-related claims.

Reports show the woman was hired in May 2012 at the pub, which features waitresses in shorts and skirts. The woman said she preferred to wear pants, but it does not appear that her decision was against regulation attire. Just one month after the woman told her bosses she was pregnant, she was fired, even though she had never had complaints about poor job performance. In addition, she only told one person about her pregnancy – her supervisor – and he subsequently fired her.

The woman’s attorneys allege that she was fired simply because she was pregnant and refused to wear skimpy clothing to work. The woman also has evidence of a text message that said that the woman would be a bad employee because she could not carry heavy trays of food during her pregnancy.

It is against the law for any employer to discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or intending to become pregnant. An employment attorney may help women retain their rights in the workplace by holding employers accountable for their negligence.

Source: 
www.dailynews.com, “Pregnant Studio City bartender fired because she wore pants, didn’t look like ‘California hooker,’ suit alleges” No author given, Oct. 09, 2013

NONPROFIT WORKER SUES OVER SEXUAL HARASSMENT

A worker for a California nonprofit agency is filing suit, alleging that she was sexually harassed and that her employer did nothing to stop the occurrences. Her suit further alleges that her employer threatened retaliation if she continued to bring the matter of the alleged sexual harassment to light.

According to the lawsuit, the woman worked for the nonprofit agency for approximately six months. During that time, she says her immediate supervisor repeatedly harassed her in a sexual manner. The allegations include the fact that the supervisor touched her inappropriately and continually made comments to her that were of a sexual nature. For example, on one occasion, the man reportedly bumped into the woman from behind. He then made a comment about not getting “front action.”

On another occasion, the man reportedly asked the female employee for a safety pin after saying he broke the zipper on his pants. He made a comment to her about not wearing underwear. On yet another occasion, the man allegedly exposed himself to the woman in the workplace.

The lawsuit doesn’t just allege sexual harassment. It also alleges wrongful termination and retaliation. The woman filing the suit claims she went to her boss’s boss with the allegations, as was appropriate per policy. The boss’s boss allegedly told the woman she would be fired if she didn’t stop making the allegations, and that the man in question was the executive’s “right hand.”

The woman filing the lawsuit reportedly went on medical leave due to an acute distress disorder — caused in part by the harassment — and was fired during that leave. She claims the termination was wrongful. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, consider taking similar steps as this woman. First, speak to human resources or appropriate leadership staff about the matter. If the matter isn’t resolved, consider filing an outside complaint with the help of a legal professional.

Source: The Sun, “Sexual harassment, cover-up alleged at San Bernardino nonprofit serving disabled persons,” Joe Nelson, Sep. 15, 2016