Discrimination |
May 24, 2017

3 Cases of Illegal Termination in California

A San Francisco wrongful termination lawyer can help employees who are unlawfully fired, as these examples illustrate

An illegal termination occurs when an employee is fired for a reason that violates the law. A San Francisco wrongful termination attorney can help employees identify whether their terminations were unlawful and can advise them about available remedies.

Here are three hypothetical examples of cases involving unlawful terminations. The circumstances are representative of the kinds of cases in which employment attorneys can help.

wrongful termination in californiaRetaliatory Discharge

Sharon worked as a software engineer for Precise Widget Corp., a Silicon Valley technology company. She was one of only a few female engineers in a department dominated by men.

During the first few weeks of her employment, her team leader propositioned her. She told the team leader that she was married and not interested in having a sexual relationship.

When the team leader propositioned her a second time, she again told him no, then reported the incident to Human Relations. The HR department told her not to worry about it.

Over the next few months, the team leader became more persistent. He threatened to give her poor performance reviews, which would have adversely affected her ability to obtain raises and promotions, unless she had an affair with him.

Sharon continued to report the incidents to the HR department, both by email and in person. She was consistently told “don’t worry about it” or “we’re looking into it.” She was also offered a transfer to a less senior position in the company at reduced pay.

Sharon finally told the HR department that she was sick of being harassed and would file a sexual harassment complaint with a state agency if serious steps were not taken to protect her. Two days later, she was fired. She was told that the company was “downsizing” its software engineering department and she was being fired because she had the least seniority with the company.

Sharon hired a San Francisco employment lawyer. The law firm discovered that a male software engineer was hired to replace Sharon and that no other engineer had been terminated in the alleged downsizing. The evidence made a persuasive case that Sharon was sexually harassed by her team leader, that the company failed to take reasonable steps to prevent such harassment from occurring, and that the company wrongfully terminated Sharon in retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.

Discriminatory Termination

Gilda is a 53-year-old woman. For several years, she had worked as a salesperson for Green Ocean Realty, a nationwide real estate broker with branch offices in California. She was then promoted to sales manager. She supervised salespersons in San Francisco and throughout Northern California.

Gilda always received positive performance reviews from her immediate supervisor. She also received stellar annual evaluations from the salespersons she supervised. The salespersons praised her helpfulness, her motivational ability, and her willingness to do everything she could to help them succeed.

Last year, one of the corporate officers visited her and told her that Green Ocean was looking for an infusion of new blood. He explained that the company was trying to appeal to younger home buyers and was hoping to bring employees on board who would have fresh ideas and give the company a youthful image. Gilda asked whether the new plan would affect her employment, and was told only that all positions were “under review.”

Two weeks later, Gilda’s supervisor told her that a decision had been made to terminate her employment. When Gilda asked why, the supervisor said that her “numbers were slipping” compared to other sales managers. The supervisor also told Gilda that her salespeople had been complaining that she was “out of touch” and not responsive to their needs.

A week after her termination, Gilda had lunch with her former assistant. The assistant confided that Green Ocean had promoted a salesperson from its Marin County branch to her former position. The salesperson was 27 years old and had only worked in real estate sales for five years.

Gilda decided to visit a San Francisco employment discrimination attorney. While investigating her case, the attorney discovered that the salespersons Gilda formerly supervised had nothing but praise for her job performance. They also denied having made any complaints about Gilda. None of them considered her to be “out of touch.”

The lawyer filed a legal action on Gilda’s behalf. Using discovery procedures, the attorney was able to obtain all of the sales figures for each sales manager employed by Green Ocean Realty. The documents proved that Gilda’s sales figures were not “slipping,” as her supervisor alleged. In fact, the success of the salespersons she supervised made her one of the top two performers among company sales managers.

Eventually, Gilda’s San Francisco discrimination attorney was able to prove that Gilda’s termination was attributable to age discrimination. The corporate officer’s comments about the company’s desire for a youthful image, Gilda’s replacement with a much younger and less qualified employee, and the company’s reliance on untrue excuses for Gilda’s termination all helped prove that Gilda’s age was the true motivation for her discharge.

Whistleblower Firing

Mark worked in the billing department of a medical clinic. A large portion of the clinic’s practice consisted of geriatric care. Mark spent most of his time processing the paperwork required to obtain Medicare payments for services that the clinic rendered to patients.

After a few months on the job, Mark began to suspect that the clinic’s doctors were billing Medicare for treatment and tests that they did not provide.

Mark asked the billing manager about his suspicions. He was told to enter billing codes as instructed and to ask no questions. But as Mark learned more about the job, he became convinced that his employer was defrauding the government.

Mark called a Medicare tip line and reported his suspicions. When a government investigator began to audit the billing records, one of the clinic’s doctors asked Mark if he had spoken to anyone at Medicare. Mark admitted that he had reported his suspicions of misconduct. The doctor fired Mark on the spot, claiming that he had violated clinic policy by disclosing confidential patient information. In fact, Mark had been careful to report what he saw in general terms without identifying any patients.

A San Francisco wrongful termination lawyer represented Mark after he was fired. Mark was happy to learn that both state and federal law protected his right to be free from being fired for reporting unlawful conduct.

Getting Help

Employees who have been unlawfully terminated can obtain legal advice to help them understand their rights. To schedule a consultation with a wrongful termination lawyer at Minnis & Smallets in San Francisco, call 1-415-551-0885. You can also tell us about your problem by submitting our online contact form.