AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Employment & Labor Law for Public Safety Agencies


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Wrongful Discharge/Discipline: Damages & Settlements

     Missouri jury awards $6.5 million to a black detective for wrongful termination. The verdict included $250,000 for race discrimination, $250,000 in punitive damages on a whistleblower claim, $3.5 million for breach of contract and $2.5 million for wrongful discharge. The ex-officer's lawyer only asked for $1.9 million in damages. Holmes v. Bd. of Police Cmsnrs. of Kansas City, Cir. Ct. Jackson Co., Mo. (Unpub. Apr. 2010).
     Illinois appellate court affirms a verdict of $3,082,350 in damages, including $2.8 million in punitive damages, plus $1.18 million in attorney fees, for a former private sector employee fired six days after stating that she would be supportive of a co-worker’s racial and sexual harassment action. Blount v. Stroud, # 1-06-2428, 2009 Ill. App. Lexis 980 (1st Dist.).
     Two suburban Chicago police officers that were allegedly fired for speaking out about a fellow officer's purported use of cocaine, are awarded $1.75 million in compensatory damages, $120,000 in liquidated damages, and $245,000 in punitive damages. Sims v. Schultz, #03C381, Pacer Doc. 229; Wiseman v. Schultz, #03C382, Pacer Doc. 100 (N.D. Ill. 2007).
     In a wrongful discharge case where the jury awarded separate verdicts for the same conduct, it was error for the trial court to enter a judgment for the combined total. The judge should have used the highest amount awarded. Roby v. McKesson, #C047617, 2006 Cal. App. Lexis 2052 (3d App. Dist. 2006). [N/R]
     Federal appeals court rejects a damage claim for a wrongful disciplinary suspension, because a successor police chief reversed that decision, with back pay. Corrective action prevents a successful Sec. 1983 damage action. Johnson v. City of Louisville, #03-5964, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 16200 (Unpub. 6th Cir. 2004). [2004 FP Oct]
     Federal appeals court affirms a $1,268,087 award to 274 former housing authority police officers that were fired without the 60-day pretermination notice required in the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), 29 U.S. Code §2101 et seq. Although government entities are exempt, there is an exception for public housing authorities. The damage award also could not be offset by job severance payments because these were made as part of unrelated settlement of other labor issues involving the plaintiffs. Castro v. Chicago Housing Auth., #03-2892, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 4576 (7th Cir. 2004). {N/R}
     Federal court awards $1,268,087 to 274 former housing authority police officers who were permanently furloughed without the 60-day pretermination notice required in the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), 29 U.S. Code §2101 et seq. Although government entities are exempt, there is an exception for public housing authorities. Castro v. Chicago Hous. Auth., #99C6910 and Rowan v. Chicago Hous. Auth., #00C5557, verdicts (N.D.Ill. 2003). Prior opins. in Castro at 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 19769, 19 IER Cases (BNA) 307 and in Rowan at 149 F.Supp.2d 390, 2001 U.S. Dist. Lexis 6386, 17 IER Cases (BNA) 1258. {N/R}
     The Justice Dept. pays $85,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a retired FBI agent, who claimed that he was defamed and forced into early retirement as a result of his work in Travelgate and Filegate. Sculimbrene v. Reno, #99-2010 (settlement 2003); prior opin. at 158 F.Supp.2d 1, 2001 U.S. Dist. Lexis 12308 (D.D.C. 2001). [2003 FP Aug]
     New York trial court reduces a $10 million punitive damages jury award to $500,000. A wrongfully terminated worker endured hostile and egregious behavior from hotel magnate Leona Helmsley, aka the "Queen of Mean", but the damages were grossly excessive. Bell v. Helmsley, #111085/01, 2003 NY Slip Op 50616U, 2003 N.Y. Misc. Lexis 192, 91 FEP Cases (BNA) 320 (N.Y. Misc. 2003). {N/R}
     A California private sector employee who was terminated after speaking up on behalf of a gay coworker was awarded $313,440 by an Orange County Superior Court. Hewus v. Weber Precision Graphics, reported in the Calif. Bar Journal Trial Digest, June 2002. {N/R}
     City was entitled to deduct the value of a disability pension from the $1 million wrongful termination verdict awarded a police sergeant. Bickford v. City of Seattle, #42912-4-I, 17 P.3d 1240, 2001 Wash. App. Lexis 210 (Wash. App.). [2001 FP 62-3]
     A chief probation officer, who was fired after 35 years of service with excellent evaluations, has recovered $3,466,159 for wrongful termination. Dieter v. Lassen Co., 1999 (12) Calif. Bar Journal "Trials Digest" (E.D. Cal. 1999). {N/R}
     Federal jury in Florida awards a murderer $2 million in punitive damages. He claimed he was fired for reporting his employer's discriminatory practices to authorities. Petaccia v. Motel 6, #96-CV-72, 34 (15) FEP Summary (BNA) 90 (M.D.Fla.). [1998 FP 142]
     A truck driver who was falsely accused of intentionally destroying the brake pedal recovered a jury verdict of $850,000. The award, which was 65% against the employer and 35% against the union, has been upheld by a federal appeals court. Schoonover v. Consol. Frtwys., 147 F.3d 492; 1998 U.S. App. Lexis 13012 (6th Cir. 1998). {N/R}
     Colorado appellate court concludes that if an untenured investigator is fired to cover up an illegal internal investigation technique, the investigator may sue for outrageous conduct and wrongful termination. Floyd v. Coors, 13 IER Cases (BNA) 115, 1997 WL 411731 (Colo.App. 1997). [1997 FP 174]
     California rejects federal rule; time limit for filing a "constructive" termination suit begins when an employee leaves the job, not when the conditions become intolerable. Mullins v. Rockwell Intl. Corp., 1997 Cal. Lexis 2547, 936 P.2d 1246, 15 Cal.4th 731. [1997 FP 109-10]
     California court awards $106,628 to an untenured worker who was unfairly fired for theft. Eiden v. T.A.I.S., Orange Co. Super.Ct. #714579, 109 (52) L.A.D.J. (V&S) 6 (1995). [1996 FP 94-5]
     So. California city pays former fire chief $415,000 in retaliatory discharge claim; he refused to lift a "stop work" order and criticized a city council decision on fire safety. Doe v. City {ID Confidential}, 108 (96) L.A.D.J. (V&S) 7 (1995). [1995 FP 158]
     Fed. appeals court affirms $253,188 in damages (plus atty. fees) to police officer who was terminated because of a false claim he had falsified a speeding ticket. Palmer v. City of Monticello, 31 F.3d 1499 (10th Cir. 1994). {N/R}
     Pennsylvania municipality pays former chief $560,000 for an attempted wrongful termination. Plaintiff alleged psychological injuries caused by the defendants. Farnell v. Bor. of Phoenixville, #94-3185, 38 (10) ATLA L.Rptr. 373 (E.D.Pa. 1995). {Editor's file ref. #5609} [1995 FP 126]
     Ex-officer agrees to $400,000 settlement from her former employer. She had been accused of misconduct in a drug investigation. Prokey v. Town of Sanford, U.S. Dist. Ct. (D.Me. 1991). [1992 FP 30-1]
     California further limits an employee's right to punitive damages in wrongful discharge cases; employer must violate a specific statute or constitutional provision. Gantt v. Sentry Insurance, 92 D.App.Rptr. 2803, #S014212 (Cal. 1992). [1992 FP 78-9]
     LAPD sergeant, fired for attending a "hot tub party" while on duty, recovers $1.55 million for due process defects at his termination hearing; earlier jury verdict of $2.9 million reduced. Gibson v. City of Los Angeles, U.S. Dist. Ct. #CV 82-3392 RG (C.D. Cal. 1988). [88 (165) FP 14-15] Note: The Ninth Circuit later ordered the city to pay him $631,000 plus a 20-year pension.
     See Also: Wrongful Discharge - In General.


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