Articles Posted in wrongful termination

When a man who refused to give up his seat on a full plane was allegedly rough handled by security and dragged off the plane, the public became enthralled with the story. There were campaigns to boycott the legacy carrier and a seemingly endless supply of memes.  This all came about as a result of the alleged incident being captured by a passenger on his or her smartphone video camera.

AirplaneThese days, it seems there are cameras everywhere.  While there may have been witnesses describing such an event to a news reporter in the past, nothing sparks the public interest and, in this case, outrage more than a video clip of the incident on one’s Facebook feed or on a news organization’s web feed.

This can be used as critical evidence when an employee’s job is on the line. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes clips can be taken out-of-context. That alone doesn’t necessarily mean wrongful termination occurred. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects workers from wrongful termination, but California is still an at-will employment state.

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According to a recent news article from the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has just ordered a large nationally chartered bank to rehire a whistleblower and also to pay this aggrieved employee around $5.4 million in back pay, attorneys fees, and damages.

executiveBank manager was working at an office in Los Angeles when he discovered what he believed to be potential fraud and disclosed that potential fraud to his employer.  He told his direct supervisors and also called an ethics hotline run by the company.  The company claims the employer did not call the hotline and leave a message, but it should be noted that the company admitted during the litigation various known problems with the ethics hotline system. Continue reading

We are probably aware of how pet owners can get a microchip implanted in their dogs or cats that can be scanned to determine ownership information in case the animal is lost and not wearing a collar with identification tags.  Some of us can recall older science fiction movies, such as “Demolition Man,” where everyone had a chip implanted in his or her hand that would be used to track the person and as a method of payments.

chipIt seems the future is here, according to a recent news article form the Los Angeles Times.  This is fitting, because most of those futuristic movies of the 80s and 90s take place in a year that has already passed.  According to this recent article, one employer is giving employees the option of having a microchip implanted in the space between the thumb and index finger. Continue reading

A worker alleging his employer violated federal civil rights law by retaliating against him for filing a racial discrimination complaint will get another shot at taking his claim to court.factory manager

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a trial court’s dismissal of his original complaint.

According to court records, plaintiff is an African American man who first started working for the company, a machinery manufacturing firm based in Texas, in 1991. He started his job as a “helper,” but was eventually promoted to machinist. During his tenure at the company, he was laid off three times due to staff reductions, but each time was hired back. Eventually, he racked up a full decade of seniority. By all accounts, he performed his job in a manner his employer deemed satisfactory, he regularly received raises on merit and he’d never been disciplined – until May 2009, when he was 55-years-old.  Continue reading

In the context of employment law, a pretext is basically a false reason given for an adverse employment action, such as a demotion, loss of benefits or wrongful termination. For example, perhaps your employer tells you that you are being fired due to budget cuts, but in reality, you’re being let go in retaliation because you recently filed a complaint of sexual harassment or asked for a disability accommodation. manager

So how do we prove the employer’s actions were discriminatory? The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the 1973 case of McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green in which the court held that after plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer to show that there was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. It’s then up to the plaintiff to show reasons why the true reason for the action was pretextual. This kind of evidence is critical because in most cases, employers don’t explicitly state their discriminatory motivations.

Some of the ways we can prove pretext are:

  • False or implausible business justification. Essentially, if the reason given leaves you shaking your head and thinking, “That makes no sense,” it’s probably evidence of pretext.
  • Changing reasons. First, it was because you had too many absences. But then later, it was because you were allegedly caught stealing. These kinds of starkly different justifications may be evidence of pretext.
  • Comparative evidence. Other similarly situated employees who weren’t in your protected class were treated more favorably.
  • Questionable timing. If you file a complaint for sexual harassment and are fired in short order, that timing calls into question the action. Some courts have found that pretext on this basis may exist even after weeks have elapsed between the protected activity and adverse employment action.

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Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to give qualified persons with disabilities reasonable accommodation for work – unless doing so would create some type of undue hardship. Generally speaking, a reasonable accommodation is an alteration of the work environment or in the way things are usually done that enables someone with a disability to have employment opportunities that are equal. doctor

This could mean:

  • An adjustment or modification to the job application process;
  • An adjustment or modification to the manner in which the job is typically performed or the work environment that gives the applicant/ worker a chance to perform the essential functions of the job;
  • Adjustments or changes that allow the worker with a disability the chance to enjoy equal privileges and benefits of employment, the same as other similarly-situated workers who don’t have a disability.

In order to trigger these rights, workers need to be able to perform the essential functions of the job and they need to request reasonable accommodation. In the recent case of Kowitz v. Trinity Health, the question was whether plaintiff made a request for accommodation that was adequate enough to trigger the interactive process of identifying a reasonable accommodation.  Continue reading

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle the wrongful termination claim from an ex-employee who claimed whistleblower status after he asserted he was improperly fired and then defamed for recommending a top lieutenant be fired for reported sexual harassment. sad

Instead, Attorney General Kathleen Kane promoted the alleged harasser and fired the person who recommended his termination.

Now, this settlement brings the total amount paid out by Kane’s office to current and former employees for employment lawsuits to more than $586,000. There are also numerous employment lawsuits still pending for claims like slander, retaliation and wrongful termination.  Continue reading

A woman who practices Catholicism says she was wrongfully terminated from her job at a bottled water company in Nevada because she refused to convert to Scientology.holybible

The employment lawsuit asserting religious discrimination alleges the worker was under pressure to watch pro-Scientology videos and was turned down for a pay raise when she did not show interest in switching faiths.

Based in Las Vegas, the company, Real Alkalized Water (also known as AffinityLifestyles.com) is owned by Nevada state Assemblyman Brent Jones, a Republican. His son, who is vying for an open state Assembly seat in the November election, is the executive vice president of the firm.  Continue reading

According to a recent news article from HR.BLR.com, an employee was driving his personal vehicle when he was arrested and charged with drunk driving in California. At the time of his arrest, he was working for a major insurance carrier as a claims handler.

pintTwo weeks after his arrest, employer told him he needed to answer a series of questions, and he would face termination if he refused to answer these questions. He disclosed the details of his arrest. He was given a probationary sentence, where, if he were to abide by all terms of the court and prosecutors, they would dismiss his probation in two years. This is a fairly standard deal for first-time DUI offenders in California. Continue reading

According to a recent news article from the Sacramento Bee, the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments on the issue of whether a public union could force employees in a particular sector to pay dues as a mandatory condition of employment.

writing-a-check-2-1239258Specifically, this case at issue is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Currently, the government-run union requires all teachers in the state of California to be a member of the union and to pay around $1,000 per year in membership dues if they want to work as a teacher.   Continue reading