After a California jury awarded $2 million to a fired former senior attorney in Herrera’s office who was investigating improper payments, a spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera indicated that they were still evaluating options. The San Francisco Superior court jury’s award was granted by Lynn O’Malley Taylor to former Chief Trial Deputy Joanne Hoeper.
Hoeper claimed that she was wrongfully terminated in 2014 as a result of her work on a potential fraud investigation. Her investigation concerned payments that were approved by Herrera’s home office’s claims bureau to homeowners and plumbers used by homeowners for the replacement of private sewer lines they claimed were injured by the roots of trees owned by the city.
The Superior Court trial lasted a month, but the potential fraud investigation Hoeper was in the process of conducting was never concluded. It was not yet determined whether or not the alleged fraud actually occurred. According to court documents, Herrera claimed that Hoeper was terminated due to his dissatisfaction with her management style. He also stated that he started searching for Hoeper’s replacement in 2010 before the even started probing into the sewer-line-payments in the early months of 2012. Contrary to Herrera’s claims, the jury concluded that Hoeper’s efforts to investigate the alleged false claims against the city claiming root damage to plumbing were a substantial and motivating reason for the city’s decision to fire Hoeper. The jury awarded Hoeper $602,000 for lost earnings, future lost earnings of $136,000 and $1,291,000 for her emotional distress from the situation.
If you need help with a wrongful termination or you need assistance determining if you have been wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.