California Court of Appeals Denies Plaintiff Relief in Employment Discrimination Case

To succeed on a claim for wrongful termination from employment, a plaintiff must show that his or her termination was substantially motivated by a violation of public policy. Only when a plaintiff proves that he or she was fired for reasons such as discrimination or retaliation can that plaintiff receive a favorable verdict. A court of appeals in California recently demonstrated how strict the standard for wrongful termination cases can be, denying a plaintiff relief after she claimed she had suffered discrimination from her employer based on a disability.

According to the facts in the opinion, the plaintiff was working as a nurse and was terminated in 2017 after almost 20 years of employment. In her complaint, the plaintiff described her work in patient care and listed the dates during which she began taking medical leave for an undisclosed illness. The medical leave started in 2015 and occurred sporadically through early 2017.

In January 2017, the plaintiff received what is called a “Corrective Action Level 4 write-up,” which included allegations and complaints against the plaintiff dating back to 2015. Two weeks later, she was suspended, and three months after the suspension, her employment was terminated. The plaintiff argued in her complaint that her disability and time on medical leave were substantial motivating factors for the termination and that if it had not been for her disability, she would not have been fired. The lower court denied the plaintiff’s request for relief, and she promptly appealed.

On appeal, the higher court took into consideration the complaints listed against the plaintiff in her employer’s reports. According to the employer, the plaintiff had made significant mistakes in communicating with both staff members and patients. For example, when one patient reported that he was suicidal, the plaintiff failed to notify medical personnel that there was an urgent issue in the patient’s medical records.

When considering the mistakes described by the employer alongside the plaintiff’s allegations of discrimination, the court concluded that the plaintiff had not met her burden of showing that her disability was a substantial motivating factor in the termination. Despite the fact that the plaintiff was fired soon after she began taking medical leave, said the court, the timeline of the events was not enough to support a claim of discrimination.

Putting significant weight into the employer’s allegations, the court denied the defendant’s appeal. The lower court’s original verdict was thus affirmed.

Retaining Your California Employment Law Attorney

If you have faced or are facing discrimination in the workplace, you may have a claim for relief. In order to put the strongest possible case forward, the best thing you can do for your case is to hire a qualified, hardworking California employment law attorney that can advise you on possible strategies and help you choose what works best for you. At the Nourmand Law firm, we are standing by and ready to speak with you in a free, no-obligation phone consultation. Give us a call today at 310-553-3600.


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