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December 7, 2020

Veteran WSHB trial lawyer, Jade Tran, obtained a defense verdict from a jury in Orange County, California, on behalf of a property management company that specializes in community associations. The defendant was accused of wrongfully terminating an 11-year tenured employee while he was out on medical leave for treatment of Stage 4 cancer.

Plaintiff claimed that he was effectively terminated two weeks after starting his medical leave, which was within the timeframe of protected leave under CFRA and FMLA. Plaintiff claimed that the termination was due to retaliation for his taking leave and/or discrimination for his medical condition. Plaintiff also claimed that when he was released back to work 10 months later, the defendant failed to accommodate him or engage in the good faith interactive process by offering him non-comparable positions despite comparable positions being available, then immediately terminating him for failing to accept any offered position.

Defendant countered that Plaintiff was not terminated, but that his position had been eliminated when its client association, where Plaintiff worked on-site, requested a reduction as a budget balancing measure. Defendant also claimed it discussed all open positions in Southern California with Plaintiff, who declined each due to either distance or salary.

Plaintiff asked the jury for almost $5 million in general damages at trial on the basis that he became suicidal when he learned he was terminated upon returning from a lengthy and difficult battle with cancer, and that punitive damages were also appropriate as his termination was devised by the highest level of management.

Jade Tran is an ABOTA member who is frequently retained to defend “bet the company” cases. She is one of a handful of attorneys in the country who has taken two cases to verdict during the pandemic. These trials were conducted under less than ideal circumstances with social distancing being enforced by spreading jurors throughout the courtroom, impacting sight lines to witnesses and exhibits, and everyone being required to wear masks, which made both hearing and judging credibility difficult. Jade is member of WSHB’s national employment team, comprised of employment lawyers in each of WSHB’s 30 offices, who provide advice on employment and labor issues and litigate employment disputes for the firm’s diverse client base throughout the country.

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