Retaliation For Pregnancy Discrimination Claim- $150,000.00
Facts: In 1995, plaintiff, a 37-year-old district attorney for the County of
San Diego for ten years, specializing in domestic violence, became pregnant
with her first child. She disclosed this fact to her superiors in December
1995. After her disclosure, she was accused of suddenly becoming a morale
problem, that she didn’t get along with her co-workers and didn’t
do her fair share of the workload. After successfully trying back-to-back
domestic homicide cases as well as a third felony in her last trimester
and returning from maternity leave, she found herself in misdemeanor trials.
The response to her formal complaint about the discrimination was the
assignment of a biased investigator, a substandard performance evaluation
and a counseling memo accusing her of dishonesty and insubordination.
In fact, the District Attorney told her, himself, that she would never
try another domestic violence case. In November 1997, plaintiff requested
a one-year leave of absence, which was granted. Plaintiff did not return
from her leave, and on February 1, 1999, she resigned.
Injuries/Damages: Emotional distress injuries. Loss of income.
Contentions: Plaintiff alleged there were violations of the pregnancy discrimination
statutes contained within the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA),
violations of the family leave statutes contained within the FEHA, the
California Family Rights Act, and the federal Family and Medical Leave
Act. Plaintiff also alleged violations of various anti-retaliation provisions
in anti-discrimination statutes, as well as Labor Code Section 1102.5,
and wrongful constructive termination.
Special Notes: The jury originally awarded $250,000 on the retaliation claim. The Court
reduced the verdict to $150,000 because it felt the jury included attorney’s
fees in its verdict. The Court then awarded attorney’s fees and
costs in the amount of $273,481.
The County appealed. The Fourth District Court of Appeal found for the
Plaintiff and certified the case for partial publication. The official
Akers v. County of San Diego (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 1441
Retaliation For Supporting Gender Discrimination Claim- $966,500.00
Facts: Plaintiff worked in the Planning Department at the City of Chula Vista
from January 1972 until he was fired in August of 1996. During his employment,
he advanced from being a Technician to a Senior Planner. He loved his
job, and in his job performance evaluations he was consistently rated
In June or July of 1993, he became romantically involved with a subordinate
in his department (Jane Doe). In June or July of 1994, the relationship
ended. The plaintiff disclosed the relationship to his superiors at the
City in July of 1994. Despite the fact that the City subsequently took
the position that the plaintiff “lied” about the relationship
when questioned, a review of information from that time frame demonstrated
that the accusation that the plaintiff “lied” was made later
as an attempt to find some legitimate reason to end his employment.
Because of interim events, Jane Doe eventually asserted a claim of discrimination
against Defendant City. During the course of the investigation of Jane
Doe’s claims, the Plaintiff told the investigating attorney of another
incident that potentially involved a claim of gender discrimination which
had occurred within the Planning Department in 1995. The attorney made
no attempts whatsoever to follow up this issue. The plaintiff then brought
it to the City of Chula Vista. He sent a memo outlining his concerns to
the Assistant City Manager, Defendant Sid Morris, on July 10, 1996.
The conclusion of the investigation regarding Jane Doe’s discrimination/harassment
allegations was that although many of the acts alleged by her factually
occurred, they did not rise to the level of harassment. The plaintiff
was completely cleared of any allegations for which he was originally
under investigation. No discipline of any kind was ever recommended in
regard to the plaintiff.
The City’s long-standing policies concerning complaints of gender
discrimination, specifically when involving the head of a department,
were to retain an outside independent investigator to conduct an investigation
and to notify the individual against whom the complaint had been made,
in writing, that the charges had been brought. At the time the plaintiff
brought his complaint against Mr. Leiter concerning gender discrimination,
Mr. Leiter was the head of the Planning Department. The City decided to
handle the Plaintiff’s complaint “in-house.” Instead
of an outside investigator, the Assistant Director of Human Resources,
Defendant Melody Kessler, was allowed to conduct her own “investigation.”
Mr Leiter was never advised in writing, as required by their policies,
that a complaint of gender discrimination had been made against him. Ms.
Kessler concluded that the plaintiff’s allegations were “unproven
and unfounded.” Kessler concluded her investigation on August 15, 1996.
On August 26, 1996, plaintiff delivered a memo to Kessler expressing his
dismay regarding the “findings” of her investigation. Two
days later, plaintiff was presented with his Advance Notice of Termination,
indicating that he had been fired by the City of Chula Vista. This document
was authored by Bob Leiter. Jane Doe was fired from her job the same day.
Injuries/Damages: Loss of earnings between $494,237-$531,587. Emotional distress
Contentions: Plaintiff claims defendants retaliated against him for protected conduct
in making good faith complaints against prohibited employment practices.
Defendants committed intentional and negligent infliction of emotional
distress, statutory violations, tortious discharge and defamation. The
plaintiff was fired in retaliation for supporting the discrimination claim
of Jane Doe and also the gender discrimination claim of another job applicant
at the City of Chula Vista.
Special Notes: Settlement was in the form of cash payment plus periodic payments. Plaintiff
was also entitled to his full retirement benefits.