California Patent Attorney Loses Discrimination and Wrongful Termination Suit

California Patent Attorney Loses Discrimination and Wrongful Termination Suit.jpg

A patent attorney, Geneva Lai, claiming wrongful termination recently lost her lawsuit against Silicon Valley firm LegalForce RAPC. The wrongful termination suit was tossed by a California judge. The attorney claims she was fired for challenging an allegedly biased revenue requirement that was imposed on women working at the Firm. After hearing the arguments, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James L. Stoelker ruled in favor of the Defendant, noting that the law firm stated they had fired the attorney, in part, for creating a fake client.

The judge issued a written tentative decision before the hearing, but after hearing oral arguments during the June 26th hearing, he stated the matter needed additional consideration. On Friday, the judge dismissed the plaintiff’s gender discrimination claims, retaliation claims and wrongful termination claims.

According to court documents, the firm hired Lai as a patent attorney in September of 2015. The Firm had three others working in their patent department at the time: Raj Abyhanker (law firm principal), Laura Figel, and Oscar Au. Abhyanker met with the team in April 2016 and advised Lai and Figel they would need to start finding their own clients. According to LegalForce, Lai failed to meet the new revenue requirement, so they ended her employment. There were also questions about a client that Lai said she had secured.

The judge noted that there was an investigation regarding whether or not Lai made up a client that ended up hitting the target goal set by the Firm. The judge noted that when an employee is attempting to “game the system” in that way, it’s hard to ignore.

In the initial, written tentative decision, the judge said he was inclined to toss the plaintiff’s cause of action for unlawful sex discrimination because the roles of Lai and Figel at the Firm were different than Au’s role at the Firm. He was not a licensed attorney. Therefore, it was not an act of discrimination to impose the new revenue requirement just on the two women. Lai could not establish that a male employee at the firm in a similar work position was treated more favorably.

The judge also found that Lai failed to support her cause of action for unlawful retaliation in the workplace and wrongful termination claims.

If you need to talk about retaliation in the workplace of if you are struggling with workplace discrimination, please get in touch with an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.