When you are the victim of workplace harassment, wrongful termination, or both, you may suffer certain tangible financial harm as a result, in the form of lost earning. Lost wages, however, may be only a fraction of the total damages that can be available in your case. You may also be able to collect emotional distress damages and, if your employer acted maliciously, you may be entitled to collect punitive damages. In the end, the totality of your damages may be many, many times over the amount of your lost wages, as was the case for one Alameda County storage facility worker. To make sure you get all the damages to which the law says you’re entitled, make sure you have an experienced California employment attorney representing you.
The employee, E.O. worked at a self-storage facility owned by D.B. In late 2011, E.O.’s employment ended. The employee sued, alleging multiple forms of compensable improper conduct by her employer, including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination and failure to pay overtime.
According to the employee’s lawsuit, the owner, after discovering the employee’s pregnancy, called her into his office and yelled at her for a prolonged period of time. The yelling included disparaging statements about the size that E.O.’s belly would be in a few weeks, as well as the prospect of her breastfeeding her child in the future. Shortly after that, the owner greatly reduced E.O.’s hours.
The pre-termination treatment and the events surrounding the termination allegedly caused E.O. stress, anxiety and depression.
If you have a case like E.O.’s you may be entitled to many different types of damages. In addition to compensatory damages, which (as the name implies) compensate you for things like lost earnings, medical expenses and emotional distress, you may also be entitled to collect punitive damages. In California, you can obtain an award of punitive damages if you can show that the defendant in your case not only engaged in impermissible conduct that caused you harm, but did so with “malice, oppression, or fraud.” If the jury makes such a finding, it can impose an award of punitive damages to “punish the wrongdoer and to discourage similar conduct in the future.”
E.O.’s case demonstrates how, even if economic harm you suffered as a result of a wrongful termination was relatively small, you case can be worth a very large amount. The jury ruled in favor of E.O. The jury decided that the total of the woman’s lost earnings damages was $25,000. However, the jury also concluded that the total of E.O.’s emotional distress damages was $300,000. On top of that, the jury awarded the employee $1 million in punitive damages.
The appeals court upheld that award. The owner argued on appeal that his behavior wasn’t “sufficiently reprehensible” to trigger a punitive damages award. “He is wrong,” the appeals court succinctly responded. There was, according to the court, ample proof available from which the jury could conclude that the owner acted with malice.
The Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch have been working hard for many years to help people harmed by discrimination and wrongful termination to get the compensation they deserve. To learn more about how we 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:
A Supervisor’s Mocking of a Corrections Officer’s Stutter was Severe and Pervasive Enough to Warrant $500K in Damages, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, July 27, 2018
California Administrative Assistant Fired While on Medical Leave Lands $723K Judgment, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, May 16, 2018