February 2009 – The day employee reported back to work after serving on jury duty, the Store Manager informed her that the defendant had decided to terminate her employment.
February 2009 – Employee filed a grievance with her Union.
February 2009 – A meeting with employee, her union representative and defendant’s representative was held. At the meeting, the company representative took down some handwritten notes regarding employee’s version of what had occurred. According to the company representative’s handwritten notes, employee had called Assistant Store Manager to let him know that she would be out the following week for jury duty. At the time of her telephone conversation with Assistant Store Manager she was aware that she did not have to appear to court on Monday. Employee was not aware that she was scheduled to work. Assistant Store Manger did not say to employee that Monday is a holiday, will you be in? Employee did not tell anyone that she was on jury duty on that Monday. In fact, when Store Manager asked her if she was on jury duty on that Monday, she told the Store Manager “no”. On Tuesday, when employee called Assistant Store Manager with a status of her jury duty he did ask her “you didn’t go on jury duty on Monday, did you?”, she said “yes” meaning “no”.
February 2009 – Assistant Store Manager provided a second statement regarding his version of the telephone conversation.
March 2009 – The company representative sent employee’s union representative a letter indicating that employee was terminated for violating Company Policies and Procedures relative to integrity, fraud, theft and grazing. The company representative further indicated in the letter that at the meeting, employee was unable to provide any information that might mitigate her termination. As such, defendant maintains its position that employee’s termination was just and will therefore stand.
June 2009 – The California Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, after a hearing, issued its decision in favor of employee. In the decision, the Administrative Judge held: “Because the claimant believed that she had properly notified the employer regarding her jury service, and her absence from work, the claimant’s termination was for reasons other than misconduct connected with her most recent work. The claimant’s failure to report to work or properly notify the employer of her whereabouts [on that Monday], was more a good faith error in judgment or discretion than a willful or wanton breach of an important obligation that the claimant owed to the employer. This is particularly true given the claimant’s 19 years of service to the employer without any similar incidents. Therefore, the claimant was terminated for reasons other than misconduct connected with her most recent work.”
An employer is prohibited from discharging, discriminating or retaliating against an employee “for taking time off to serve as required by law on an inquest jury or trial jury, if the employee, prior to taking time off, gives reasonable notice to the employer that he or she is required to serve.” California Labor Code §230(a).
If an employer fired an employee for exercising California Labor Code §230 leave rights, the employee might well be able to state a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Hentzel v. Singer Co. (1982) 138 Cal.App.3d 290, 300 – termination in retaliation for protesting hazardous working conditions which violated Labor Code.
Statutory remedies for violation of California Labor Code §230 include reinstatement, and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the act of the employer. California Labor Code §230(e). Under wrongful termination in violation of public policy, Plaintiff can also recover emotional distress and punitive damages.
Employee properly informed defendant of her summons for jury duty. Upon completion of her jury service, after 19 years of service, defendant discriminated against her and terminated her employment because she took time off to serve on jury duty.