California Catholic School May Face Lawsuit After Firing Teacher

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Kristen Biel, a former teacher at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, needed time off from her job after recently being diagnosed with breast cancer in Spring 2014. She was in need of a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Biel requested a leave of absence during the upcoming fall semester from Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the school’s principal. Just weeks later, Biel was fired.

Last month, Biel was granted the right to sue the school in federal court for discrimination when an appeals court overturned the lower court decision that she was a “minister” in the eyes of the court and barred from suing a church-operated school. This isn’t the first time St. James School and Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper have faced legal allegations. Kreuper, along with another nun, was accused of stealing from student tuition checks, fees and fundraisers for the school for over a decade. The issue was recently announced by school officials.

Kreuper, 77 years old, and her vice principal, Sister Lana Chang, 67 years old, essentially rerouted hundreds of thousands of dollars into a church bank account that was overlooked by many for years. They then used this overlooked account to pay for personal expenses. Parents were advised of the situation at a meeting in Redondo Beach recently. Parents asked about the situation said that the nuns were open in talking about gambling trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe vacations, but that they claimed Chang had wealthy relatives that paid their expenses.

Auditors working alongside the Archdiocese in Los Angeles have accounted for $500,000 of stolen funds, but the number will most likely continue to grow as the investigation continues. Initially, the archdiocese intended to handle the investigation internally and not press charges, but later they changed course stating that they would be cooperating with police and that they plan to be a complaining party in the criminal case. Criminal complaints have not yet been filed. The police investigation is ongoing. Police are requesting copies of old tuition checks from parents and details regarding any cash donations.

Biel, 53 years old, started working at St. James in March 2013. She was hired as a long-term substitute teacher. By the end of the year, she was hired as the school’s full-time fifth-grade teacher. She received a formal, positive evaluation from Kreuper that praised her “good work” in promoting a safe and caring learning environment. Areas of improvement included in the one official review noted two students were coloring in their books and some of the students had cluttered desks.

When Biel was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2014, she advised Kreuper she would start treatments within the month. A few weeks later, Kreuper advised Biel she wouldn’t be renewing her contract and claimed it was because it would be unfair for student to accommodate her leave by having two teachers in one year. She also accused Biel of not running a strict classroom even though that complaint was not included in Biel’s one official evaluation.

Biel filed a federal lawsuit against St. James in 2015. She included allegations of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you need help because you have been wrongfully terminated from your job or if you are being discriminated against in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.

$107,000 Payment to Settle San Ysidro Wrongful Termination Suit

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Danielle Clark is the former district official who was fired in 2016 without explanation and just 11 days after the San Ysidro school board honored her for hard work and dedication. Two years later, the San Ysidro school board approves a $107,000 payment to settle her wrongful termination suit. Clark was the district’s special education director, but only for a short time period (less than five months). After she was abruptly let go from her position, she sued the district for wrongful termination.

Danielle Clark’s termination occurred under Julio Fonseca, the former Superintendent. After his resignation last year, a state audit was conducted. The audit revealed that Fonseca’s top deputy was overpaid $324,000 (including life insurance and vacation days). The district will be undergoing an additional state audit looking at past contracts and vendor payments in connection to the school’s construction projects.

The $107,000 payment to Clark was approved by the school board as part of their regular monthly meeting. Clark last heard from the board 3-4 weeks previously and was actually expecting a settlement of at least $150,000. She was not aware that any payment had been formally approved until she was contacted by the media. As of yet, she has not received any payment from the media.

Very few details were made public regarding the wrongful termination suit and the negotiations leading to the agreement intended to resolve the lawsuit. The line item on the board’s meeting agenda actually made no mention of Danielle Clark, her wrongful termination suit, or even her former job or department. Clark’s settlement was listed with her name amid 140 other listed expenses on a document that was one of 200 pages of material and backup material for the monthly board meeting. The vote at the meeting was 3-0. Two of the board members were absent (Marcos Diaz and Antonio Martinez). The board gave approval for the district’s attorneys to settle the case in May 2018.

If you need to talk to an experienced California employment law attorney because you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Fired Home Depot Employee Wins Over the Jury in Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

A former Home Depot employee was awarded $175,500 by a California state court jury this month. The jury found that Home Depot, the retail giant, did not provide necessary and reasonable accommodations for the employee’s disability due to breast cancer surgery and varicose veins. The jury also found that the employee was not protected from retaliation after she reported improper sales practices that were in use at the store location where she was employed.

The jury sided with the plaintiff, Patricia Tillotson, when they found in her favor but awarded her far less than the originally sought after $3.3 million. Tillotson was awarded $75,500 in past economic damages and $100,000 in future economic damages. The jury declined to award Tillotson damages for past or future emotional distress.

The plaintiff filed suit against Home Depot in 2015 after she was fired for supposedly providing a customer with inaccurate markdowns. She maintains that she was actually terminated because of her age, her disability, and for acting as a whistleblower. When she was fired, Tillotson was 58 years old. She was the oldest employee in her Home Depot department.

The retail giant argued that Tillotson’s whole department was fired due to an investigation that found the employees in that department were providing unauthorized markdowns to Home Depot customers. They specifically claim that her termination was not due to her medical conditions and that her whistleblower complaints had nothing to do with the decision to end her employment.

The jury found that Tillotson’s age and disability were not the foundation for Home Depot’s decision to terminate her employment. But they did find that Home Depot’s failure to participate in good faith efforts to accommodate Tillotson’s disability that left her having difficulty lifting objects and working in a position where standing for extended periods would not be necessary. The jurors found that the company’s failure to make these efforts resulted in harm.

If you have been denied reasonable accommodations for your disability in the workplace or if you have been wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$1.5 Million Awarded to Valley Med Chief Psychiatrist

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Dr. Jan Weber, former chief psychiatrist, was fired from his job with Valley Medical Center in 2014. This month, he was awarded $1.5 million in damages to resolve his California wrongful termination lawsuit.

What is Wrongful Termination? The legal definition of wrongful termination or wrongful dismissal is to be in a situation where an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by the employer in a way that breaches one or more terms in the contract of employment or is in violation of employment law.

Is There a Statue of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Claims? The statute of limitations is the time limit set by law during which an individual can file a lawsuit based on a claim. If you are an employee who was wrongfully terminated from your job, and you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the case can be thrown out. Statutes of limitations can be set by either state or federal law.

Dr. Jan Weber headed the hospital’s child and adolescent psychiatry division for over five years. In late 2014, he was let go by the county after he complained about unsafe work conditions and young patients at the institution who were being offered substandard care.

Dr. Jan Weber took notice of substandard care provided to youth patients at the facility throughout the five years he worked there as the chief psychiatrist. At the end of his term with the medical treatment center, Weber was 49 years old and was responsible for supervising approximately eight different psychiatrists in the Valley Medical Center’s mental health department.

The case ended with a three-week-long trial. The trial included testimonies from County Executive Jeff Smith and Dr. Michael Meade, Valley Med’s chair of psychiatry. The Clara County jury came back in favor of the plaintiff in the case. They held the county liable for Weber’s past and future financial loss as well as his emotional distress.

If you need help after being wrongfully terminated or if you are experiencing other employment law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLPas soon as possible.