California Medical Office Worker Revives Wrongful Termination Claim After Winning Appeal Challenging Employer’s Alleged Acts of Age Discrimination

older womanSometimes, the conditions at a job can become beyond atrocious. These conditions can deteriorate to such an extreme extent that you feel you have no choice but to leave. If that negative treatment is a result of age, sex, or disability discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you may be able to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit, even if you resigned and were not fired. You can proceed under a theory known as “constructive discharge,” as one Southern California medical office worker recently did in her case. Your knowledgeable California wrongful termination attorney can explain how your case would work.

The plaintiff in the medical office case, Olga, worked in a Southern California dermatology office. While there, Olga allegedly suffered an extensive barrage of sex-related, age-related, and disability-related abuse by the doctor. The doctor called Olga too fat, too ugly, and too old, among other things, according to the woman.

Three years into her time at the office, the doctor hired another female employee. This new employee, Monica, was an attractive woman in her 20s. Shortly after Monica was hired, Olga, who was in her 40s, was demoted. This allegedly triggered a panic attack, and Olga took a leave of absence. On the day she returned, she resigned.

Olga sued, alleging that the employer engaged in multiple forms of discrimination and that the discrimination and abuse were so severe that Olga’s resignation was actually a “constructive discharge.” Constructive discharge means that conditions at a job were so intolerably bad that a reasonable person would view the situation and see no option other than to resign.

The employer moved for summary judgment, and the trial court sided with the employer. The woman appealed, however, and the appeals court issued a favorable ruling for her. The appeals court concluded that the employer was not entitled to summary judgment on her claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. California law allows at-will employees to bring wrongful termination claims in situations in which the employer terminates them on grounds that violate fundamental public policy. One type of public policy violation that can trigger a potential wrongful termination claim is if an employer terminates an employee based upon age, sex, or disability-related reasons that violate the FEHA. In other words, if Olga had proof of age discrimination in violation of the FEHA, she had a viable claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Olga’s evidence indicated that the employer repeatedly made remarks tying her age to her job performance, including stating that she was too old to do anything other than billing (which was a lesser position than the office manager role she held). Olga allegedly made many requests asking the employer to stop, but the comments did not stop. The employer continued making those comments right up through December 2012, which was the month in which Olga was demoted. Based upon the plaintiff’s evidence, the appeals court concluded that she had enough to raise a viable factual dispute about whether her termination was for impermissible age discrimination-related reasons.

The appeals court also concluded that Olga had enough to proceed with her claim that she was constructively discharged. Given that the plaintiff’s evidence included multiple comments over a prolonged period that continued right until her demotion and leave of absence, the court determined that Olga should at least be allowed to pursue her argument of constructive discharge.

If you believe you were a victim of discrimination or wrongful termination, you need skilled counsel working to defend your interests. The diligent Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch have spent many years zealously representing the needs of wrongfully terminated workers. To learn more about how our team can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

How Your Employer’s Actions May Create an Implied Contract and Help Your California Wrongful Termination Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, July 28, 2017

Appeals Court Revives Wrongful Termination Case Brought by California Worker Fired After Suffering Workplace Injury, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Feb. 15, 2016