Wrongfully Terminated in California

wrongfully terminatedWhen the Director of Facilities for a Napa Valley resort executed the duties required by his job, he claims he was wrongfully terminated. Instead of rolling over and accepting his fate, Daniel Philbin took the case to court. The property owner, Carneros, sees things quite differently from the story Philbin tells.  As with most employment disputes, only with the help of an experienced local attorney will the plaintiff be able to successfully present a case.

Wrongful Termination and Job Expectations

Being in charge of the resort facilities encompassed many responsibilities, among them three key duties;

  • Ensuring the facility met ADA compliance regulations for disabled guests;
  • Reporting resort water usage;
  • Procuring necessary permits.

According to Philbin, his attempts to execute these obligations met with dissatisfaction from his employers, and resulted in his untimely termination. Specifically, he contends that when new owners took over the property and began renovations, they declined to install the ADA required ramps and lifts in the patio and spa areas. Additionally, Philbin asserts that when management sought to drill a new well on the property, they neglected to apply for the permits to enable water and electrical connections, despite Philbin repeatedly urging them to do so.

Instead of the new owners appreciating Philbin’s knowledge and expertise as a property manager, they ignored his overtures to follow legal procedures, and started holding meetings without him. Ultimately, he found himself without a job.

Wrongfully Terminated – The Other Side of the Story

Not true, claims the resort. As far as the ADA concerns, those were addressed immediately upon discovering there were issues. Yes, water issues were problematic, but the resort was fully cooperating with the County on that matter.  

In fact, the new owners were so intent on handling the water issues properly that they ultimately hired an outside contractor to handle it exclusively. Philbin was presented with an offer to deal with other property issues for a monthly salary. Instead, according to Carneros, Philbin lost his cool in a tense meeting and resigned. The company accepted the resignation immediately.  

Wrongfully Terminated? The Court Must Decide

Philbin says he received a letter from Carneros accepting his resignation, even though he never resigned. He is now seeking damages, attorney’s fees, and associated court costs. California’s Labor Code section 1102.5 provides strong protections for employees who are fired because they fail to join in unlawful activity. Was Philbin cut out because he insisted on proper procedures?  Did Carneros exact retribution? Was Philbin wrongfully terminated? The court will now have to decide. [Read more…]

Factory Closings Leaving Workers Unemployed

factory closingsFactory closings or mass layoffs? Are you a factory worker who showed up to work one day only to be pink slipped on the spot because the factory shut down? Be advised that there are both state and federal protections for workers just like you. A local employment attorney can help you to understand your rights and ensure that you receive the protections to which you are entitled. When those protections are denied, you may find recourse in the courts.

Factory Closings and The Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act

The federal WARN Act has been around since 1989, and requires employers to give workers a minimum of 60 days written notice prior to a covered plant closing or major layoff. Notice must be given directly to impacted workers or to their union representatives.

Factory Closings and What Constitutes a Covered Plant?

WARN regulations apply to businesses that employ 100 employees or more, not including those who work less than 20 hours per week or temporary employees who have worked less then half of the previous year.  These expectations apply to public and private employers, as well as non-profits and quasi-public employers. Exemptions are allowed when temporary plants are closed, or when workers were hired with the understanding that the job was temporary and factory closings are due to a specific project being completed. Also excepted are local, state, and federal entities that provide public services. When layoffs, relocation of more than 100 miles, or a plant closing affects one-third of the workforce and that number includes 50 or more workers, notice must be provided.

Three other exceptions exist:

  • Faltering Company: When a company is seeking capital or new business to stay open, and notice would eliminate or drastically limit opportunities;
  • Unforeseen Circumstances: When circumstances surrounding the business have changed dramatically and were not reasonably foreseeable;
  • Natural Disaster: When a natural disaster such as an earthquake leads to the closing or layoff.

California’s WARN Act is Even More Strict

For California workers, state regulations are even tighter. Companies with at least 75 employees, either part- or full-time, are included as covered employers. When a business closes or significantly reduces operations in such a way that 50 or more workers are impacted over a 30-day window, employees must be notified.

Penalties for Non-compliance

Employers who fail to comply with WARN Act regulations face several penalties:

  • Civil fines of up to $500 per day for federal violations;
  • Civil fines of up to $500 per day for state violations;
  • Back pay for each day of WARN violations;
  • Attorney’s fees.

[Read more…]

Yahoo Accused of WARN Act Violations

WARN Act, Layoff ViolationsThe WARN Act, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, is a California and federal law requiring employers to give employees notice before layoffs and plant closings. WARN Act laws,  can carry harsh penalties for employers who violate them, which could be very bad news for Yahoo!, Inc.

Gregory Anderson, who previously worked as an editor at Yahoo’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, has filed a wrongful termination suit. Anderson alleges that Yahoo violated both the federal WARN Act and the California WARN Act by reducing its workforce by around 600 employees without declaring a reduction in force or providing the employees notice under the WARN Acts.

What are the Requirements of the WARN Act?

California’s WARN Act has a broader scope than the federal WARN Act. The federal law applies only to employers with 100 or more full-time employees, while California’s law applies to employers with 75 or more or part-time employees. In both cases, the employees must have been employed for at least six of the previous 12 months.

If an employer covered by California’s WARN Act lays off 50 or more employees during a 30-day period, the employer is required to give the affected employees notice 60 days before the layoffs take place. Federal law requires this only if the number of employees affected constitutes at least 33% of the full-time employees at a single place of employment. (However, if 500 or more employees are laid off, the federal law requires notice regardless of whether the employees meet the 33% requirement.) California’s law, unlike the federal law, applies also to employees who must be relocated.

Both laws hold employers liable for back pay and benefits for each day that they failed to provide an employee with proper notice. California’s law also allows for a civil penalty of $500 for each day.

Anderson’s WARN Act Lawsuit

Anderson alleges that Yahoo used a Quarterly Performance Review (QRP) Process to sidestep the requirements of the WARN Acts. According to his complaint, Yahoo manipulated the results of the employees’ reviews and used their low scores as a pretext for terminating them, rather than laying off the employees and providing them with proper notice. Anderson is seeking back pay and benefits for the 60 days that he was not given notice, and $500 for each of the 60 days. He is also seeking attorney’s fees and damages related to other causes of action.

Another allegation in Anderson’s complaint is that Yahoo discriminated against him on the basis of his gender. According to Anderson, the company has a pattern of promoting women while “terminating, demoting or laying off men because of their gender.” Anderson also alleges that he was fired in violation of public policy, because he was terminated after complaining to Yahoo management about the legality of the QPR system. [Read more…]


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