California Appeals Court Affirms Lower Court Decision in Wrongful Termination Case

In a recent case, the First District Court of Appeals Division 5 in California issued an opinion in an appeal involving a dispute between an employer and an employee. The plaintiff is a former organizer for the defendant, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The plaintiff contends that she was wrongfully terminated by the NUHW under numerous statutes, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court issued a written order granting NUHW summary judgment and dismissing all the causes of action in the plaintiff’s complaint.

Facts of the Case

As an employee of the NUHW, the plaintiff was hired in September 2015 as an internal organizer. The NUHW employs external organizers, who encourage non-unionized employees to join the union, and internal organizers, who develop and organize members to be active participants in the union. Although the plaintiff had some union experience, she did not have experience organizing union members in hospitals or organizing workers in technical job classifications. Nevertheless, she was assigned as an internal organizer to two hospitals in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SRMH) and Petaluma Valley Hospital (PVH).

During the trial, the plaintiff’s former supervisor testified that the plaintiff initially performed well. When she was hired, NUHW was negotiating with SRMH for a successor contract, and the plaintiff was able to communicate with Spanish-speaking union members and organize them to support the contract. The contract was ratified, and the plaintiff was given a positive skills assessment.

Following the successful contract negotiations, the plaintiff was expected to take on greater job responsibilities, with the goal being that she would become the primary point of contact for SRMH and PVH. Over several months, the plaintiff’s supervisors concluded that her organizing work was not progressing appropriately. Specifically, they concluded that her organizing abilities, worksite organization, technical skills, and ability to support members in day-to-day operations were all lacking. On April 4, 2017, the plaintiff was called to a meeting and told she was being terminated because she was not a good fit. She was given the option of resigning and in exchange, receiving a severance package, or she could be terminated. The plaintiff asked that NUHW continue her medical insurance for 90 days and then put her resignation in writing. She then proceeded to the office of the finance director and signed a severance agreement. On April 7, 2017, the plaintiff wrote to NUHW, attempting to rescind her resignation. This lawsuit followed.

The Court’s Decision

The appeals court opinion addresses the trial court decision, fully affirming the trial court opinion. Regarding the plaintiff’s claims, the appeals court decision stated that it was well within the trial court’s discretion to strike the “Objections to Evidence” document. Additionally, the appellate decision points out that the plaintiff’s opening brief did not state what objections she made in her “Objections to Evidence” document and that the document was not in the appellate record. Finally, regarding the objections made by the plaintiff in her original filing, the appellate court held that the trial court did not err in declining to consider them as they were not made in a separate document as required by rule 3.1354, and regardless, the plaintiff did not demonstrate in her briefs what objections the court should have considered, why they had merit, and what difference it would have made in the outcome of the case, affirming the trial court decision.

Do You Need a California Employment Law Attorney?

Do you have claims against your employer but worry you signed away your right to sue or don’t have a strong enough case? Your claims may still be valid. Contact a California employment lawyer to discuss your situation. The attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm will review every possible avenue for recovery. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call us today at 310-553-3600.

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