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Bryant Whitten, LLP

May 2013 Archives

California jury awards $2.7 million for wrongful termination

Challenging an unfair employment termination sometimes can be an uphill battle. Under California law, an employer generally does not need to have a reason to fire an employee. But that does not mean that the company may fire an employee for whatever reason it wants. If an employer fires someone for a reason that is illegal or violates the term of an employment contract, the discharged employee may have a viable claim for wrongful termination.

California senator introduces new victim law

A California state senator recently fielded a new bill designed to safeguard those employees who participate in court hearings against workplace retaliation. Senate Bill 288 adds to current state regulations by prohibiting employers from firing or discriminating against employees who appear in court because of certain specified offenses. This bill addresses victims who have suffered from a wide range of crimes, including serious offenses like sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping and murder. In addition to safeguarding those who suffer directly, the new bill will provide for spouses, parents, children and guardians.

City police chief accused of sexual harassment

Residents of California may be interested to learn of a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court that alleges that the Newport Beach police chief sexually harassed a former police dispatcher who was dismissed in February 2012. According to the L.A. Times, the female dispatcher alleges that the chief used his position to intimidate her and that he made inappropriate comments over the course of three years. The alleged incidents followed a 2008 case in which her husband, who was a city police officer at the time, testified against the department in another court case. The case of alleged workplace sexual harassment follows an array of other troubles between the couple and the police chief. The accuser's husband was fired from his position in 2011 and sued the city last year for wrongful termination and retaliation. The accuser has an outstanding administrative appeal against the police department for her 2012 firing. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense, and one that must be scrutinized even closer when taken in context with the other charges made against the police chief. Sexual harassment can have a severely detrimental effect on the psyche of the abused. The situation would only be intensified if the accuser's husband were also experiencing intimidation and harassment from the perpetrator at the same time. In California, anyone found in such an untenable workplace environment because sexual harassment and hostile treatment should definitely consider enlisting the help of an attorney. Attempting to handle such a situation with management personnel on your own can put you at risk of further harassment or a potentially undeserved dismissal from the company. Lawyers may help people who believe that they have experienced sexual harassment seek compensation for the conduct.

Federal and state confusion over drug-free workplaces

Does California law mandate that businesses keep their workplaces drug-free? This controversial question can be tough to answer. A recent example demonstrated that the potential for workplace discrimination can occur in a variety of contexts. One situation at a California nonprofit company involved the hiring of an employee for a maintenance position. A middle manager had instructions to test the applicant repeatedly until he was able to pass a drug-screening test that qualified him for employment. These directions stood in direct conflict with written procedures that said to reject someone who failed a drug test. In this situation, the applicant had used medical marijuana for many years and stood a high risk of testing positive for drugs.

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