Today, your friendly neighborhood employees’ rights attorney is going to take a few lessons from the case of Andrew Rudnicki v. Farmers, a lawsuit that was filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. The plaintiff-employee, Rudnicki had been the senior vice president in charge of Farmers’ in-house legal division since 2013 and had been with the company since 1979. The first lesson for employers is don’t f*ck with your own lawyers as they typically know all your soft spots as well as where all of the bodies are buried.
How many employment claims do I have to win to get paid?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: One. Employment litigation is not like a school test were the closer you get to 100 percent the better you did; or like baseball where batting over .300 is enough to get you into the hall of fame. When filing your employment lawsuit against your employer, you only need to win one even if you bring dozens of claims. (Best Law Read: How Many Claims Can I Sue My Employer For At One Time? A Lot).
In Rudnicki, he brought nine claims, including age discrimination, disability discrimination, gender discrimination, breach of contract, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, retaliation, and some strange assertion of coerced self-defamation. Many of the claims were dismissed by the Court as a matter of law and did not reach the jury. The jury rejected the rest of the claims … except one. But that one is what made the employee a winner. That’s all it took.
More importantly, when there are multiple possible claims, it might not be clear which one is the best claim at the beginning of the case. Often good lawyers bring multiple claims knowing that some of the case will be lost (or even voluntarily dismissed) along the way. By asserting as many possible viable claims at the beginning of the case, your employee’s rights lawyers will be able to conduct broader discovery, which may turn up key evidence to support one of the claims or, on the other hand, show that certain claims will not be viable.
Other key factor is that there is only a certain amount of time to bring claims and as a result, it is easier to bring claims and dismiss the ones that will not succeed as opposed to trying to add new claims later.
What does statute of limitations mean?
Best Employees’ Rights Attorney Answer: The statute of limitations is a time limit for a person to assert a legal cause of action against another person or entity. If a claim is not asserted within the statute of limitations, that claim will likely be lost forever. Importantly, the statute of limitations for different types of claims are different. Each law sets a different statute of limitations for the claims it allows. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) allows two years to bring a claim, while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires a charge to be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 180 days (or 300 days if state law also prohibits the same type of employment discrimination. (Best Law Read: Read This Before Filing An EEOC Charge). And there are some claims that only provide 90 days to file before the statute of limitations cuts off the claim.
Because of the variation and potential confusion regarding statutes of limitations as well as the severe consequences of missing the deadline, it is critical to consult an employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible to assist you in figuring out your legal rights.
How do I win an employment retaliation lawsuit?
Best Employment Retaliation Lawyer Answer: Almost all employment statutes have provisions that protect employees from being retaliated against for opposing, reporting, or participating in an investigation regarding a violation of that employment law statute. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must show “1) that she engaged in protected activity, 2) that the employer took adverse action against her, and 3) that a causal link exists between the protected activity and the employer’s adverse action.” Kachmar v. Sungard Data Sys., Inc., 109 F.3d 173, 177 (3d Cir. 1997). (Best Law Read: What Does Prima Facie Mean?; How Do I Prove Illegal Retaliation By My Job Under Title VII?). It is important to note that the second element is much easier to prove than the underlying discrimination claims. (Best Law Read: Why Retaliation Is The Easiest Employment Claim). For example under Title VII, while a claim for race/color, religion, gender/sex (including pregnancy and LGBTQ+ status), and national origin require the employee to show that an adverse employee action was taken (i.e., that the employer changed material terms of the job), a claim for retaliation only requires proof of an adverse action. (Best Law Read: What Is An Adverse Employment Action?). In Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 68, 126 S. Ct. 2405, 2415 (2006), the United States Supreme Court held that in employment retaliation cases, an employee can establish the adverse action element of the retaliation claim by providing evidence “that a reasonable employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse, which in this context means it well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” Adverse action for the purpose of retaliation claim does not have to be work-related and can be an action taken by the employer after the employment has ended.
What is an example of a good employment retaliation and wrongful termination claim?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: In Rudnicki, the only case won by the employee was the retaliation case – but buy was it a whopper. Before firing Rudnicki, State Farm was sued for by a class of women for equal pay violations. As part of the class-action lawsuit, Rudnicki testified at his deposition favorably for the class of women employees. To that end, he engaged in a protected activity. With trial looming on the horizon, State Farm settled the class action lawsuit before Rudnicki could testify at trial for $4 million. According to Rudnicki’s lawsuit, State Farm scapegoated him for the case and fired him, which obviously would qualify as any adverse action that would discourage a reasonably employee from providing legally protected testimony unfavorable to the employer.
What can I do if my job lies about the reason that I was fired?
Best Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: This may come as a shock, but many employers lie about the reasons for firing employees, especially when they are being sued for employment discrimination or retaliation. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext? ). Employers often lie because if they can convince the jury that there really was a legitimate business reason for the termination of employment, the employer can block any claim for wrongful termination. Essentially, they are showing that the termination was not wrongful.
When Farmer’s fired Rudnicki, its stated basis for termination was that he had made sexist comments, had not corrected issues related to the lack of women in management, and had failed to properly handle the preservation of certain documents for litigation.
There is a real risk to employers in lying about the reason for termination (or other adverse actions). If a jury decides that it caught an employer lying, it almost certainly will conclude that its actions were willful and intentional. Why lie unless you know what you did was wrong? To that end, being caught lying and engaging in willful conduct not only tends to result in higher verdicts on the damages, but also gives the employee access to punitive damages (depending on the law at issue). (Best Law Read: What Kind Of Damages Can You Get For Wrongful Termination And Discrimination?; What Damages Can I Get For Wage Violations And Retaliation Under FLSA?).
What is my wrongful termination case worth?
Best Employment Law Firm Answer: Every case is different based on a multitude of different factors, including the applicable law, your salary or wage, the strength of the evidence and case, the location or venue of where the case will be tried, the judge assigned to the case, the composition of the eventual jury, and several other factors. It would not be wise to look at any reported verdicts online as use that as a predictor for the value of your case.
With that disclaimer, let’s take a peek at what happened in Rudnicki. After all the evidence and arguments were presented at trial, the jury found in favor of the employee and awarded Rudnicki $3.4 million was for past economic damages, $1 million for future economic damages and $1 million in noneconomic damages for a total of $5.4 million. And, because the jury found that the employer’s conduct was willful and malicious, there was a second phase of the trial where the jury further awarded $150 million in punitive damages against State Farm. Let that sink in – $150 million in punitive damages. Remember what I said about the risk of lying about the reason for termination.
Don’t start getting too excited though. State Farm moved the judge to overturn the verdict, for a new trial, or to reduce the damages (which in lawyer terms is remittitur). Judge Ruth Kwan denied the motion to enter judgment for State Farm but did grant the employer’s motion in part. Specifically, the judge gave the employee this choice: either accept a reduction of the punitive damages to $18.9 million (which is exactly three times the underlying damage award) or she will grant a new trial. It is important to remember that a judge’s grant of a new trial is very rarely overturned on appeal. As a result, Rudnicki has to decide if he thinks that he could realistically do better at a new trial than $24.3 million.
I suspect that he will take the reduction and the $24.3 million, which is hard to push back into the center of the table and call all-in. Doing so could me losing it all or just that another jury also finds for the jury but awards “only” $1 million or $600,000 or whatever. That jury would still congratulate Rudnicki, thinking it had done it a favor. Moreover, in a new trial, the employer has a chance to learn from its mistakes and likely do a better job. But we will see what Rudnicki decides and will keep you posted.
What should I do if I was wrongfully fired today?
Best Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: After you have been wrongfully fired and escorted from your workplace, realize that you are not alone. You don’t have to deal with this wrongful termination by yourself. If you reported or opposed race discrimination, age discrimination or any other type of unlawful activities going on in your workplace, call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?) Call our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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