Category: Wrongful Termination

Alphabet Soup When You’re Sick

When an employee is seriously injured or ill, California and federal law give them many different kinds of protections at work.  Since lawyers and companies love acronyms, employee handbooks are often full of a confusing alphabet soup of terms: CFRA, FMLA, ADA, ADAAA, FEHA, PDLL, PFL, and SDI, to name a few.  Confused yet?  Most people are!

Here is a quick guide to help you decipher all those letters floating around out there:

CFRA – “California Family Rights Act”

The CFRA gives employees up to 12 weeks of leave for their own or a close family member’s “serious health condition,” with protection of the employee’s job.  CFRA leave can help if you are in the hospital with pneumonia, or are put on bed rest at home after a surgery.

FMLA – “Family and Medical Leave Act”

This is the federal version of the CFRA, and usually overlaps with it.

ADA – “Americans with Disabilities Act”

The ADA is the law that protects disabled employees from being fired or discriminated against and tells employers to work with disabled employees to find solutions.  For instance, an employee who has lost a leg might be allowed to use a scooter to get around at work.

ADAAA “Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act”

This law came out a few years ago and offered more protection to employees, mostly by making it easier to show you have a disability.

FEHA – “Fair Employment and Housing Act”

The FEHA is a lot like the ADA.  It used to be a lot more generous to employees than the ADA, until the ADAAA caught federal law up towards the protections California employees already have,

PDLL – “Pregnancy Disability Leave Law”

This California-specific law provides additional job-protected medical leave – up to four months – for a woman disabled by her pregnancy, like if she is put on bed rest or has severe preeclampsia.

PFL – “Paid Family Leave”

PFL is not a kind of leave and does not give an employee extra time away from work.  It is a state program that can help pay an employee a little bit to help ends meet if an employee cannot work while taking care of a family member.

SDI – Short-term Disability Insurance

This is also a state program that can help an employee with financial benefits when the employee is disabled and cannot work.

“That was Easy.” Or so They Thought – Staples Liable for Age Discrimination

The Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled in favor of Bobby Nickel, now 66 years old, and a former employee of Staples Inc. In a lawsuit against the office supply mogul, Nickel alleged age discrimination as the motivation for his wrongful termination.

Nickel began working for Corporate Express in 2002 as a facilities manager. In 2008, Corporate Express was bought out by Staples Inc., and everything changed for Nickel. Up until the buyout, Nickel had nothing but glowing, positive reviews. But now, he was getting written up for minor infractions and subjected to various comments about his age.

Plaintiff claimed that Staples managers were intent on phasing out older employees who were high wage earners. First, Nickel’s supervisor attempted to coerce Nickel to resign. When he refused, his co-workers and other staff began harassing him and taunting his age. He was often referred to as an “old goat” or “old coot.” On one occasion, a reception alerted Nickel that a manager had approached her and asked her to provide a false statement condemning Nickel. She refused.

Nickel was eventually terminated for “stealing a 68 cent bell pepper” from the Staples cafeteria. Staples claimed that “stealing” the bell pepper violated their zero-tolerance theft policy.

Last month, the jury deliberated for 2 days, ending in a more than $26 million judgment in favor of Nickel. $22.8 million was awarded in the form of punitive damages with an additional $3.2 million for compensatory damages. Staples plans to appeal.

Source: LA Daily News

Means Girls: State Hospital Style

We often hear stories of youngsters in high school making up rumors about each other out of retaliation for one thing or another. Sometimes, those high school tactics become prevalent in the real world too.

Melody Jo Samuelson began working for Napa State Hospital as an assessment psychologist in 2006. Her job function was to accurately assess criminally accused patients of their ability and fitness to stand trial. Ms. Samuelson soon realized that her job was not so much about actually assessing the patients, as it was to go through an easy checklist of characteristics.

James Jones, the hospital’s chief psychologist seemed determined to increase the hospital’s positive “outcome stats” and pump out patients who were “fit to stand trial.” Therefore, he manipulated the hospital’s assessment procedures, significantly lowering assessment standards, to reach his goal.

In 2008, Ms. Samuelson was subpoenaed to testify that these methods were true. The case involved a patient who was wrongly cleared fit to stand trial. Ms. Samuelson spoke of Mr. Jones’ methods, sparking a wave of retaliation against her.

After her testimony, two of Ms. Samuelson’s fellow employees created an elaborate scheme to frame her of extortion and committing perjury. These allegations got Ms. Samuelson fired.

Upon pursuing a suit against Napa State Hospital, it was found that the two employees had indeed fabricated these accusations. Ms. Samuelson was awarded $890,000 in punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and awards. Each employee was ordered to pay $30,000 and $50,000.

If you feel you’ve been terminated for “whistle blowing,” contact one of our employees.

FMLA Leave 2014 Remix

The Family and Medical Leave Act maybe remixed in 2014. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) has proposed the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2014 that would amend the original and make it broader for use.

Currently, in order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employer must have fifty (50) or more people employed within twenty-five (25) miles of each other. One may take up to twelve (12) weeks in any given year period for a variety of different reasons that include: childbirth; adoption of a child; care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; a serious health condition of oneself; and any thereof applied to a service member on “covered active duty.”

The amended act seeks to reduce the number of employees needed for FMLA to apply for the company. Instead of 50, the enhancement asks for twenty-five (25) or more employees working within the same established radius. Also, it wishes to broaden the scope of the leave by including other legitimate reasons for taking an FMLA leave.

The following reasons could now be included: participate in or attend an activity sponsored by a school or community organization that relates to a program an employee’s son, daughter, or grandchild attends; take care of family medical and dental care for spouses, children, etc.; and visit nursing and care facilities to attend to elderly family.

The First Steps to File a Lawsuit

You find yourself bullied and harassed at your work place. You’re called names based on your ethnicity, or your religious beliefs and practices are brought into question, or you experience unwanted touching and sexual advances. You report these incidents to your employer. You are fired. Now what?

Many people find themselves at a loss when their livelihood is taken from them and are frequently confused as to where to turn. In these instances, one must know that time is precious. If you wish to file suit or take action for termination/firing, bullying, or harassment, the first step is to ensure your time is preserved.

For claims based on federal law that safeguards against discrimination, an employee or former employee has 180 days from the time the unlawful action took place to file with the federal entity, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On the state level and for claims violating state law based on discrimination, a person has up to 1 year to file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). These time windows are called “statutes of limitations.” If your statute of limitation expires, then the claims do also.

Therefore, to ensure your precious time is in fact preserved, contact an attorney who can determine which entity needs to be involved. It’s beneficial to contact an attorney sooner rather than later as to preserve your claims.