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Bryant Whitten, LLP

November 2012 Archives

Former doctor receives $3.3 million for wrongful termination

In one of the largest jury awards in the history of Madera County, California, a former prison doctor who lost his job seven years ago received $3.3 million in damages for wrongful termination. The jury found the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation breached its employment agreement with the doctor when it fired him without explanation or notice in 2005. The doctor had been hired by the state prisons department in 1990 to provide surgical services to inmates at a women's prison in Chowchilla. In 1995, he began providing medical services to inmates at a second women's facility that had opened Chowchilla that year. As the populations of both prisons grew, the demand for medical services increased. The doctor limited his own practice in order to better meet the prisons' needs. He also formed an association of physicians to facilitate the provision of proper medical care to inmates.

English-only policies in the workplace may be illegal

Some employers have policies requiring employees to speak English in the workplace. A recent California workplace discrimination case highlights the risks of maintaining such a policy. In that case, an acute care hospital had to pay nearly $1 million to settle a class action brought by the EEOC on behalf of 70 Filipino-American employees who were required to speak English at work. Because the hospital's English-only policy did not apply to Spanish-speaking employees but only to those who spoke Tagalog or other Filipino languages, the EEOC determined the hospital was guilty of national origin discrimination.It may be acceptable for an employer to maintain an English-only policy in certain limited circumstances based on business necessity. An English-only rule may be justified for communications with customers who speak only English, in emergencies in which a common language is needed for safety, for team assignments requiring a common language to promote efficiency and to enable English-only speaking supervisors to effectively monitor employee communications.

Contractor ordered to pay $1 million in wages and penalties

A plumbing contractor has been ordered to pay more than $1 million to the state and to workers on a Stockton public works project after an investigation revealed that 44 employees had not been paid proper wages for their work. The labor commissioner assessed penalties as part of the total wage and hour violations order. The commissioner hopes to force the company to pay workers over $800,000 in unpaid wages.The company was found to have willfully ignored the law that requires contractors on public projects to pay a specified minimum wage to workers. The company also failed to pay for overtime hours worked and changed its records to falsify the number of hours employees had actually worked.

Jury awards fired worker $450,000 for wrongful termination

A California jury took less than a day in deliberations to reach a verdict in favor of a Hollywood visual effects worker who was wrongfully fired by Ascent Media Group. The man, who was discharged after he saw a company executive using cocaine in the men's room and reported the incident to his supervisor, will receive at least $450,000 for wrongful termination. The jury also determined that company officials acted with malice in firing the man. This triggered a second phase of the trial to determine if the fired worker is also entitled to punitive damages.

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