Noe Abarca, a 61-year old employee who formerly worked for Citizens of Humanity, recently won a major verdict. While the court case took over three weeks to argue, in the end he was awarded $650,000 in compensatory and punitive damages by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury.
Noe Abarca felt he was wrongfully dismissed after a shoulder injury limited his ability to work. Prior to the injury, Abarca worked for six years at minimum wage as a quality control inspector for the well-known blue jeans label. In the jury’s opinion, Abarca was treated with malice, fraud and oppression. Plaintiff’s counsel indicates that this can be viewed as a message to employers on how to treat their employees.
According to court documents, Abarca was hired to work for Citizens of Humanity in 2006. Approximately three years later, he started to feel pain in his chest/shoulders. This made it difficult for him to lift items. Eventually, he saw a doctor who issued a restriction that Abarca not lift anything over 20 pounds. In response, Citizens of Humanity brought in another employee to handle Abarca’s loading and distribution duties and advised him to only inspect merchandise. The day after Abarca’s lifting restrictions ended, he was still feeling pain. He was fired.
Abarca’s case alleges retaliation, failure to provide reasonable accommodation and disability discrimination. The court ruled that Citizens of Humanity’s HR director was fraudulent in statements pertaining to worker’s compensation upon learning of Abarca’s injury originally as well as on the day he was terminated.
If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated or otherwise unfairly treated on the job, please get in touch with one o the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.