Legal news and tips for employees, by Law Office of Eugene Lee

Teacher Wins $1.8 Million Jury Award for Wrongful Termination

Fellow attorney Mary-Alice Coleman reports a $1.8 million award to a teacher in a wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against her former employer, private school operator Phoenix Schools Inc. Jennifer Scott had been director for Phoenix’s private preschool in Rocklin for 12 years. She was fired when she refused to enroll a child on a day when no teachers were available for the 2-year-old classroom. When the parents complained to corporate headquarters, it immediately terminated her for “failing to maximize enrollment”. Phoenix’s owners, both attorneys, failed to appear at their depositions or the trial.

The case went before a Placer County Superior Court jury consisting of 8 men and 4 women. The jurors voted unanimously in favor of plaintiff on all counts and verdict amounts, finding that Ms. Scott had been fired for refusing to violate California laws regarding student-teacher ratios. The verdict breakdown was as follows:

– $100,000 lost past wages
– $500,000 lost future wages
– $500,000 emotional distress
– $750,000 punitive damages

Judge James Garbolino presided over the suit. Counsel for the defense was Bruce Scheidt of Sacramento law firm Kronick, Moscovitz, Tiedemann & Girard. In the past, Placer County jurors have been somewhat unsympathetic to plaintiffs. Recently, however, jurors there have begun issuing notable verdicts.

Phoenix’s VP of Corporate Development, Sharon Moran, stated that Phoenix intends to file post-trial motions and possibly appeal.

It always amazes me when employers take a case like this to trial instead of settling early. When a verdict like this comes out, especially in a conservative county, you wonder, will they ever learn?

Congratulations to Ms. Coleman. The holidays just became a lot merrier for her and her client.

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