Category Archives: FEHA

Pregnancy Discrimination Verdict – $538,000 in Damages

Branigan Robertson is proud to announce that his law firm, along with the incredible Lawrance Bohm of the Bohm Law Group, just obtained a verdict in Orange County Superior Court in front of Hon. Ronald Bauer. The case was a pregnancy discrimination case in which the Plaintiff, Kimberly Perry, was terminated after delivering a stillborn child. Mr. Robertson has handled many pregnancy discrimination cases.

Ms. Perry worked at eGumball, Inc. In three years of employment as the HR Manager, Ms. Perry was never reprimanded in writing. In February of 2013 she told her boss, the President, that she was pregnant. Ms. Perry went on leave on August 30, 2013, approximately a week before her baby was due. A few days later she delivered a stillborn child. She and her husband were devastated. Her son’s name was Trenton.

On October 4, Ms. Perry informed the President via email that she intended to return to work on October 31st. According to witnesses, this made the President uneasy as he thought she would be depressed and gloomy. He did not think Ms. Perry would return from leave after what happened. The President forwarded Ms. Perry’s email to his assistant, Chelsea Patterson. Ms. Patterson was the President’s most trusted employee, and she replied to the President stating that despite the situation Kimmy had done a “good job” in the HR Department, but they should move forward with their “most recent decision.” Ms. Patterson confirmed at depo that this email meant “terminating Kimmy Perry.” She changed her testimony at trial and said it didn’t mean termination, it meant they were going to “make some kind of change.”

But since eGumball did not write up Ms. Perry in three years of employment, they needed a paper trail if they were going to fire her since her termination was going to follow the death of her child. eGumball hired an auditor to look into the HR Department on October 14, 2013. The auditor came in and interviewed two employees who were not qualified to give the answers. eGumball used the audit’s results as its main justification for terminating Ms. Perry. But during the case it was discovered that eGumball did not get the results of this audit until weeks after Ms. Perry was already fired.

The jury awarded $138,000 in damages for Ms. Perry. The jury then heard testimony as to whether or not punitive damages should be awarded. The jury felt they were needed awarded $400,000 for a total verdict of $538,000.

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Filed under FEHA, Pregnancy

Your Right to Receive Reasonable Accommodations Due to Disability in the Workplace

California law requires that employer make reasonable accommodation for the known disabilities of employees to enable them to perform the job’s essential functions unless doing so would produce undue hardship to the employer’s operations. This is an affirmative duty for employers to accommodate disabled workers. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (also known as FEHA) provides a list of possible accommodations including making facilities readily accessible for disabled employees, job restructuring, modifying work schedules, or even allowing an employee to work from home. Disability discrimination and employment lawyers ensure that employers in California will be held accountable for failing to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled employees.

FEHA Protects your Rights

In Doe Psychiatrist v. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), Plaintiff was a full time psychiatrist for CDCR since 2006. After medical leave of absence, Plaintiff informed the employer that she had ADHD and depression. She then asked for reasonable accommodations and presented the employer with a list of possible accommodations such as a more secluded and quiet place to work. CDCR refused to provide the accommodations. The employer notified the Plaintiff that she would need to decide whether to return to work or not. Plaintiff ended up being terminated shortly thereafter. Plaintiff retained an employment lawyer to represent her against the CDCR.

The employer argued that Plaintiff did not give the employer sufficient medical information to the employer, and that reasonable accommodation was already provided to the Plaintiff when she took a leave of absence. The jury did not buy the employer’s arguments. The jury awarded Plaintiff a gross verdict of over $1 million for employer’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations, and failure to engage in good faith in the interactive process.

Reasonable Accommodations in Today’s Workplace

Sadly, employers fail to provide employees with reasonable accommodation all the time. Many times employers may do this to cut costs. However, as the above case shows, employers will be held accountable for failing to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodation. If your employer has failed to provide you with reasonable accommodation, contact an employment lawyer immediately.

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California Labor Laws on Age Discrimination

There are many types of prohibited employment discrimination in California. One common type is age discrimination. CA’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, protects employees who are at least 40 years old from discrimination in the workplace or during the hiring process. It is unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee because of the employee’s age if the employee is 40 years or older. And it is also unlawful for an employer to only search for younger applicants if the employer has a job opening. Age discrimination in the workplace is just one of the many areas of labor law in which California employment attorneys work to prevent.

California Labor Lawyers Deter Discrimination in the Workplace

In Nickel v. Staples, the plaintiff was employed as a facilities manager. The plaintiff was 64 years old at the time he was terminated. At the time he was terminated, a new company had just acquired the company he had been employed with for several years. Throughout his employment, the plaintiff received accolades and positive reviews for his performance. Despite this, the plaintiff believed he was terminated because his pay scale was higher than many of the employees of the acquiring company. His managers also stated that they needed to get rid of the older, higher paid employees. The plaintiff’s age also became a running joke at the office, and he was often referred to as an old goat. Lastly, the plaintiff was even approached by a co-worker who told him that she had been told by upper management to make up a false statement about the plaintiff’s conduct as a pretext to his termination.

The jury sided with the plaintiff. The jury awarded the plaintiff a total verdict of $26,107,328, most of which was punitive damages. This is an exceptional result that is rare in California jury verdicts. While the details here don’t seem to justify such a large verdict, the jury saw and evaluated all of the facts before coming to such a large amount.

Nickel Proves Workplace Discrimination Still Exists

Unfortunately, employers still take adverse action against its employees for discriminatory reasons. Sadly, this is far too common in California. But companies can be held accountable. If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace for any reason, call a California labor lawyer. There are many great lawyers up and down the State of California. If you have a good case, you will find a lawyer who will likely represent you on a contingency fee.

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CA Jury Awards $185 Million Dollars in Punitive Damages in Gender Discrimination Case

Employers often assume that they can fire an at-will employee at any time for any reason. This is not entirely true. In California, a company can fire an employee for any reason except for something that violates the law. For example, an employer cannot fire an employee for his or her gender. Unfortunately, an employee getting fired for their gender or being pregnant is still common.

In Jaurez v. AutoZone, plaintiff (represented by the amazing Lawrance Bohm) sued AutoZone in San Diego Federal Court for sex discrimination and retaliation under California law. Over the course of her employment, plaintiff noticed that male employees were treated more favorable than female employees. For example, less experience male employees were being promoted more often than female employees. Even though she was very qualified, plaintiff was consistently brushed aside for promotion and inexperienced and unqualified male employees would be promoted instead. Several years into her employment, plaintiff became pregnant and almost instantly adverse action was taken against her by her employer upon her telling the employer the good news. The district manager made snarky comments to her about her being pregnant, nitpicked at all her work, placed her on a performance improvement plan and was even demoted back to assistant manager. She as replaced by a male store manager. She was fired after she returned from maternity leave for allegedly not being trustworthy.

AutoZone’s lawyers argued that there was no evidence to support Plaintiff’s case. AutoZone’s lawyers further argued that Plaintiff was a manipulator who lied and made threats to receive promotions.

Plaintiff presented testimonies and evidence of the contrary. Former employees testified about the aura of retaliation at the company. Another witness testified that the reasons Plaintiff was terminated was unknown to him although he was the employee who was deemed by AutoZone as most knowledgeable about Plaintiff’s termination. Finally, AutoZone did not have any female employees testify as to the fair treatment by the company of female employees.

Fortunately, the jury did not buy defense counsel’s arguments. The jury returned a stunning verdict in favor of Plaintiff awarding her roughly $800,000 in lost wages and emotional distress, and issued an enormous $185,000,000 punitive damages verdict.

At the end of the day, this is huge for employees who have been and potentially will be terminated by their employees for discriminatory reasons. Large corporations such as AutoZone need to be held accountable for breaking the law or else these corporations will keep doing it without any consequences.

While this case is not a typical employment verdict, contact an employment lawyer immediately if you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated. You should not wait as the statute of limitations may waive you case. The firm who represented Plaintiff in this case was the Bohm Law Group, a firm that Mr. Robertson works frequently with on employment cases. This is not a typical employment verdict. This information should in no way be construed as an estimate or guarantee of what you or your loved ones may win in court even if they suffered similar abuse.

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Filed under FEHA, Pregnancy, Wrongful Termination

Disabling Employers’ From Breaking the Law: Disability Discrimination in the Workplace and Rodriguez v. Valley Vista Services Inc.

California law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a physical disability, mentally disability, or medical condition. Under the law, a mental disability include any mental or psychological disorder including, but not limited to, emotional or mental illness, clinical depression, and bipolar disorder. Thus, a California employer may not base the following employment decision’s on a person’s mental disability: refuse to hire the person, fire the person from employment, or discriminate against the persons in the amount of compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

In Rodriguez v. Valley Vista Services Inc., plaintiff requested to take a leave of absence and reasonable accommodations as she was suffering from a mental disability in the form of severe panic attacks. She was placed on leave of absence by her doctor. Oddly enough, plaintiff was terminated within one month of making her leave and accommodation request. After being a model employee for the defendant for roughly seven years, plaintiff was terminated from employment allegedly due to “job abandonment.” Plaintiff subsequently sued her former employer and brought causes of action for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation and wrongful termination among other things.

Defendants argued that plaintiff used company e-mail to promote her babysitting gig, and that she failed to report to work for a week and refused to contact her employer thereby causing her to be terminated. Yet, the jury did not buy defendants’ arguments. After a deliberation time of three days, the jury returned a stunning verdict of $21.8 million in favor of the plaintiff.

At the end of the day, a verdict this large reaffirms California employees’ rights in the workplace. Such a large figure sends a message to employers to do what they should be doing all along: abide by the law. If you have a mental or physical disability, or a medical condition, and your employer will not reasonably accommodate you, or your believe your employer has terminated, demoted, or cut your benefits due to your disability, contact an employment lawyer immediately.

Please note, Mr. Robertson was not involved in this case in anyway and this page should not be considered a guarantee or promise as to the outcome of your case.

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Filed under Disability, FEHA, Wrongful Termination

Pregnant and Working? You Should Know California’s Main Pregnancy Disability Law

Laws You Should Know – Government Code § 12945  – This is CA’s main pregnancy disability leave statute. We have an entire webpage dedicated to pregnancy disability leave that is far more detailed that this.

According to § 12945:

  1. It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to allow a female employee disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition to take a leave for a reasonable period of time not to exceed four months and thereafter return to work. Reasonable period of time means that period during which the female employee is disabled on account of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. An employer may require an employee who plans to take a leave pursuant to this subdivision to give the employer reasonable notice of the date the leave shall commence and the estimated duration of the leave.

  2. It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to maintain and pay for coverage for an eligible female employee who takes pregnancy disability leave under a group health plan for the duration of the leave, not to exceed four months over the course of a 12-month period, at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the leave. The employer may recover from the employee the premium that the employer paid under this subdivision for maintaining coverage for the employee if certain conditions occur.

  3. It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee for a condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, if she so requests, with the advice of her health care provider.

  4. It is unlawful for an employer who has a policy, practice, or collective bargaining agreement requiring or authorizing the transfer of temporarily disabled employees to less strenuous or hazardous positions for the duration of the disability to refuse to transfer a pregnant female employee who so requests.

  5. It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to temporarily transfer a pregnant female employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position for the duration of her pregnancy if she so requests, with the advice of her physician, where that transfer can be reasonably accommodated. However, no employer shall be required by this section to create additional employment that the employer would not otherwise have created, nor shall the employer be required to discharge any employee, transfer any employee with more seniority, or promote any employee who is not qualified to perform the job.

  6. It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under the above provisions.

Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who focuses his practice on pregnancy discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. Call for a free consultation.

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Filed under FEHA, Pregnancy

New California Employment Laws

Laws You Should KnowEmployment attorney Branigan Robertson has reviewed recent legislative enactments coming out of California’s government. Here are the main laws that workers should know about:

  • AB 292 – Which codifies a law reversing Kelly v. Conco Companies (2011) 196 CA 4th 191, to clarify that sexual harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual desire. Governor Brown signed this measure. This is especially important in same-sex sexual harassment cases where there is no evidence that the harasser actually desires to engage in sexual activities with the victim.
  • SB 655 – Addresses Harris v. City of Santa Monica (2013) 56 Cal4th 203, by defining a “substantial motivating factor” for purposes of discrimination or retaliation claims and providing an additional remedy, a statutory penalty up to $25,000, for an employee in a mixed motive case.
  • SB 770 – Expands California’s Paid Family Leave program to include time off to care for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law.
  • SB 462 – Fixes Labor Code § 218.5’s fee shifting provision by requiring a showing of bad faith in order for an employer to recover attorneys’ fees in a wage claim action. Governor Brown signed this measure.
  • AB 10 – Raises the minimum wage in California from $8.00 per hour to $10.00 per hour. AB 10 will raise California’s minimum wage in two one-dollar increments, from $8 per hour today to $9 per hour, effective July 1, 2014 and from $9 per hour to $10 per hour, effective January 1, 2016.

These are fantastic laws that will dramatically help employees vindicate their rights in California when employers treat them poorly.

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Filed under FEHA, Harassment, Wage & Hour