Wrongful Termination Complaint Thomsen v. Georgia-Pacific

Wrongful Termination ComplaintWrongful termination complaint Thomsen v. Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, LLC. How far must an employer go to accommodate a worker’s disability? Jan Thomsen worked at a corrugated container plant in Madeira, California for approximately 23 years. He sustained a shoulder injury on the job in 2012 and returned to work in 2013 after undergoing surgery. He informed his employer, Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, LLC, that he was now unable to perform the responsibilities of his previous position as a cut and die operator. He also provided verification from his doctor that his condition prevented him from performing certain responsibilities such as carrying anything that weighs more than 30 pounds.

Thomsen was then assigned a position as an assistant end gluer, which he believed would be a good match for his capabilities. However, after performing the job, Thomsen told his employer that the duties of the new position would need to be modified to accommodate his disability. He was told by an HR employee to return to his doctor, to determine whether additional restrictions were necessary.

Thomsen did not return to his doctor. He was fired shortly afterward, for refusing to work an overtime shift. Thomsen then filed a wrongful termination complaint against Georgia-Pacific. One of his claims was that his employer violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by failing to provide reasonable accommodation for his disability. At trial, Georgia-Pacific moved to dismiss this claim.

Many employers would look at these facts and conclude that Georgia-Pacific clearly had the law on its side. After all, when Thomsen was unable to perform his old job due to his injuries, Georgia-Pacific assigned him a new one – one that Thomsen agreed was within his capabilities. And when Thomsen asserted that he was unable to perform his new job, Georgia-Pacific’s response was to ask for documentation, rather than firing or suspending him.

But according to a federal court, it is not that simple. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California rejected Georgia-Pacific’s motion to dismiss Thomsen’s claim that Georgia-Pacific failed to accommodate his disability. The court found that a reasonable jury could find that Georgia-Pacific was obligated to engage with Thomsen to assess whether modifications to the position were possible.

Wrongful Termination Complaint – An “Interactive Process”

In reaching its conclusion, the court pointed to two particular allegations of Thomsen’s wrongful termination complaint.

  • Thomsen’s wrongful termination complaint alleged that his new position required him, at times, to lift more than 30 pounds – which his doctor had already confirmed was too much for him to handle.
  • Thomsen’s wrongful termination complaint also alleged that a machine operator he worked with refused to accommodate his needs, and kept the machine running even when it was backed up.

Under FEHA, an employer must “engage in a timely, good faith interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective reasonable accommodations, if any” after an employee requests reasonable accommodations due to a disability or known mental condition. The court held that a reasonable jury could conclude that after Thomsen expressed concerns about the requirements of his new position, Georgia-Pacific was obligated to engage in a dialogue with him before deciding that he must return to his doctor. [Read more…]

Employment Lawsuit VS FEHA 1 Year Statute of Limitations

Employment LawsuitCan I file an employment lawsuit even after the one year Fair Employment and housing act one year statute of limitations? Let’s say you are an employee working for a business in California, and you develop a physical disability. Your employment is terminated shortly thereafter. 15 months go by, and then you decide you want to file a wrongful firing claim.

You plan on arguing that your termination amounted to illegal discrimination based on your disability and that your employer’s action violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). As it happens, however, FEHA has a one year limitations period, and your firing took place over a year ago. Can you still file a valid claim?

If you guessed that filing a valid claim would be impossible, a California Court of Appeal would beg to differ. In the case of Prue v. Brady Company/San Diego Inc., it ruled that a plaintiff’s lawsuit could proceed, despite the expiration of FEHA’s statute of limitations, because it was a common law tort claim alleging violation of the public policy laid out in FEHA.

The Facts of the Employment Lawsuit Case

Adam Prue worked for Brady Company/San Diego Inc., and was injured on the job. His employer was informed about the nature of his injuries, and he was later terminated. He filed a claim over a year later, arguing that his termination was a violation of California public policy. Prue alleged that his manager told him that the hernia he suffered was the reason for his firing.

At trial, Brady Company filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion argued that Prue’s claim was barred by a one-year statute of limitations, which had expired. The trial court granted the motion, and dismissed Prue’s case.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, and allowed Prue’s claim to proceed. The Court held that Prue was permitted to a file his claim, because he was not actually filing a claim under FEHA, but rather a common law tort claim arguing that his termination violated California public policy, with FEHA being the statute that set forth the fundamental public policy in question.

The ruling stated that the relevant statute of limitations was the two-year statute of limitations under section 335 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. Prue’s claim was filed in April 2013, less than two years after his termination in July 2011, so the Court concluded that his filing was timely. [Read more…]


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