LA Radio Personality Appeals in Wrongful Termination Suit

A popular former radio personality for Los Angeles’ Spanish-language radio station K-Love 107.5 claims that her former employer Univision Communications Inc. wrongfully terminated her from her position at the radio station. Sofia Soria brought high rations, but was fired for alleged tardiness. The truth of the situation was that Soria was battling a stomach tumor at the time in question and required a stomach surgery (or so Soria alleged).  Soria’s California Wrongful Termination appeal was heard in November 2016.

According to allegations Soria made in court documents, she was diagnosed with a stomach tumor in late 2010. She attended a year’s worth of doctor’s appointments that caused a number of absences from the K-Love radio program. Soria claims that she informed her employer of her need for surgery in late 2011. Soon after, Soria claims she was terminated from her job after fifteen successful years with K-Love. In response, she filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in January 2013 alleging that her program had consistently high ratings at the time she was fired, for which she was rewarded with pay raises and bonuses on a regular basis and for which she was commended in performance reviews. The court found in favor of Univision.

Soria appealed the lower court’s decision. On November 3rd, the California Appeals Court heard arguments supporting Soria’s argument that she was wrongfully terminated. Originally, Univision argued that Soria was never actually disabled and had never requested accommodations or medical leave for the issues she was alleging in the suit. Univision had also previously argued that the tumor ended up being non-cancerous and was, therefore, not a threat to Soria’s health. Therefore from Univision’s perspective, Soria missed a number of shifts without just cause and was terminated for her frequent tardiness for the job. Prior to Soria’s appeal, the Defendant was granted summary judgment.

On appeal, Soria’s attorneys pointed out that while the tumor was eventually shown to be benign, her doctors suggested that it remained a threat to Soria’s internal organs, thus presenting a threat to her health and requiring surgery. Also noted during her appeal was that medical appointments were necessary for biopsies, monitoring, etc. Univision felt it was Soria’s choice to schedule appointments during work hours, but the appellate judge wasn’t so sure. Could there have been something more they could have done to support their employee when she needed it? Soria’s representation also noted on appeal that while Univision claims they terminated her for tardiness and absences, there was no documentation or mention in past performance evaluations of the issue.

Also noted was that under the Family Rights Act the only requirement for accommodation is to verbally note that surgery is required. Soria’s potential disability discrimination claim that would have been eligible according to the Fair Employment and Housing Act was negated by her termination.

If you have questions about employment law or the appellate process, please contact one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.