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Bryant Whitten, LLP

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.

At trial, the doctor's attorney argued that prison officials provided no reason for terminating the doctor's employment in 2005. There had been no evidence that the doctor had engaged in any wrongdoing and no complaints had been made against him. The attorney argued that this amounted to both a breach of contract and a violation of the doctor's due process rights. After more than two days of deliberations, the jury agreed.

If there is an agreement between an employer and an employee setting out the terms and conditions of employment, the employer may terminate employment only under the circumstances set out in the agreement. If the agreement is not followed, the employee could sue the employer for wrongful termination. An experienced wrongful termination attorney can assist an employee who has been discharged in considering whether the employee will challenge the dismissal.

Source: The Fresno Bee, "Madera doctor wins $3.3 million for wrongful termination," Pablo Lopez, Nov. 14, 2012

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