California Pharmacy Tech Gets New Opportunity to Pursue Emotional Distress Damages in Wrongful Termination Case

A drugstore employee got a renewed chance to make her case for damages after the California Court of Appeal threw out the damages award in her discrimination and wrongful termination case. According to the appeals court, the verdict that awarded the employee $0 in damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress was ”inconsistent” and required reversal.

The employee was a woman who had been with the same employer, a large retail drugstore, for more than two decades. Starting as an ice cream scooper, she eventually rose to become a pharmacy technician. In February 2004, she experienced a significant anxiety attack while at work. Some time after that, the employee launched a complaint against a district manager, whom she accused of sexual harassment away from work. By August 2007, the employer had fired her.

In her lawsuit against the drugstore and a former supervisor, the employee alleged multiple causes of action, including sexual harassment and discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case went through a first trial, but the appeals court ordered a new trial on certain aspects of the case. After the second trial, the jury awarded the employee a grand total of $341,000. That included an award of $0 in non-economic damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the drugstore.

The employee appealed, and she won. The success on appeal related back to the options a jury in a re-trial does (or does not) have, and the employee’s persuasive argument related to an “inconsistent” verdict. In the first trial, the jury had found that the drugstore’s “employees or managers engaged in outrageous conduct” while “acting within the course and scope of their employment” and that this conduct caused the employee’s emotional distress. While the appeals court overturned the first trial and ordered a re-trial on certain elements, the second jury was bound by these findings of the first jury regarding the existence of emotional distress, the causation of it, and the harm it inflicted.

Once a jury finds that an employee suffered emotional distress, that the employer caused the distress, and that the distress harmed the employee, it is not possible to say that the damages the employer inflicted on the employee were $0. In this case, the employee had proof that she suffered emotionally for nine months prior to her firing and that the termination of the only job she’d had from the age of 18 to age 41 felt like “something within me had died.” With these pieces in place and on the record, the damages award was not permissible, and the employee was entitled to a new trial on that issue.

For clear advice and zealous advocacy in your wrongful termination case, contact the experienced Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Our team is dedicated to helping harmed employees seek the remedies they deserve. For more information regarding how this office can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Supreme Court Rules Employee Allowed to Demand a Jury Trial for Wrongful Termination Claim, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, April 13, 2017

California Appeals Court Revives Producer’s Wrongful Termination Case Against CNN, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Jan. 12, 2017

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