A recent case involving a California nurse who attempted to take her employer to court by filing a wrongful termination action serves as a reminder that winning such cases requires a nuanced understanding of the law. The mere fact that an employee “feels” they were wronged when an employer fired them doesn’t mean a law was actually broken.
Why a California Appeals Court Ruled Against a Nurse in a Wrongful Termination Case
This case originated when the plaintiff sued a medical practice of which she was once an employee, claiming that she had been terminated because she has a disability and because she had taken medical leave.
If her claims were rooted in fact, she would have a valid case. California law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities. Employers also cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers who take medical leave when they have the right to do so.
The court evaluated her case by referring to the essential elements of a wrongful death claim:
- An employer-employee relationship existed
- The employer terminated the employee
- By terminating the employee, the employer violated the law/public policy
- Being terminated caused the employee to sustain damages for which they can be compensated
The appeals court ultimately determined the employee had failed to provide sufficient evidence showing her employer lacked a valid reason for terminating her employment. The employee’s argument consisted of the following points:
- She was fired shortly after returning from medical leave
- A medication error she was alleged to have made was based on a misunderstanding on her employer’s part
- Her employer’s given reason for her termination — that her performance had been unsatisfactory and that she had a history of communication problems with both patients and staff — was vague.
These arguments were not strong enough to show that her employer had acted in a discriminatory manner by firing her. The court also noted that, while the nurse may have had a valid complaint regarding allegations about a medication error that were based upon a misunderstanding on the part of her employer, this alone does not render a wrongful termination case valid. Someone suing an employer for wrongful termination must show their employer was motivated by reasons that are inconsistent with the law when they fired them. Showing an employer is incompetent is not enough.
This is not meant to discourage you from taking legal action if you believe your employer is guilty of wrongful termination. It’s meant to highlight that proving you have been a victim of wrongful termination can be very challenging.
This is not a task you can handle on your own. If you try to represent yourself or you hire an unqualified lawyer when attempting to hold an employer accountable in these circumstances, you will likely struggle to gather the evidence necessary to demonstrate your case is valid.
Are you planning on filing a wrongful termination action against your employer in the Los Angeles, Pasadena, Riverside, or Torrance areas? If so, our wrongful termination employees at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers can assist you in building a strong case. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at 310-740-9890.