Defense Verdict in Wrongful Termination Case
Laura. S. Flynn, a shareholder elect with the San Francisco office, recently obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful termination case filed in Santa Monica Superior Court.
The plaintiff was employed as a Regional Administrator in the Beverly Hills office of a security services company with branch offices located throughout the United States. The company's headquarters were located in New York with its administrative offices in Memphis. Plaintiff's job duties included coordinating communications between the various offices. The plaintiff had been employed by the company for twelve years and had consistently received positive job performance reviews.
The plaintiff had been granted permission to work an altered work schedule in order to attend classes at the University of Pepperdine. She ultimately obtained a Masters and was asked by the University to be an adjunct professor. In order to teach classes as an adjunct professor, plaintiff needed to continue to work an adjusted work schedule. Plaintiff asserted that she obtained permission to alter her schedule to allow her to teach from her three direct supervisors. However, she did not request permission from Human Resources or the President of the company. After plaintiff began teaching, the President of the company attempted to contact her during normal working hours. Plaintiff was teaching a class at the time and had to step out of the class to accept the call. Once Human Resources and the President became aware that plaintiff had a second form of employment that conflicted with her work schedule, she was asked to choose between working for the company or working for Pepperdine. The plaintiff refused to stop teaching. As a result, she was terminated.
The plaintiff filed a complaint alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy, breach of implied contract and violation of Labor Code section 2699. Plaintiff alleged that she had been fired for lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer's premises. Labor Code sections 96(k) and 98.6. She sought general damages; past and future wage loss; and attorney's fees.
The court granted the company's motion for directed verdict as to the causes of action for wrongful termination of public policy and violation of Labor Code section 2699. As to the remaining cause of action for breach of implied contract, the jury determined that an implied in fact contract not to terminate except for good cause had been created, but that the company had good cause to discharge the plaintiff.