Employee awarded $749,000 for age and disability discrimination claims

SHARON Warehime worked as a claims adjuster for Farmers Insurance for four years. In June 2006, at the age of 61, she was terminated after coming back from a medical leave of absence due to work-related stress. She sued Farmers for discrimination and retaliation. A Fresno jury awarded her $749,000 in damages.
When Ms. Warehime was hired, she had over fifteen years of experience in the insurance industry. In the first three years, Ms. Warehime was conferred honors and awards by the company for good to outstanding job-performance ratings each year.
Things began to change for her when one of her supervisors “wanted to hire his own people.” Warehime was given higher caseloads than other employees, including problematic files from an employee who had been fired. Her supervisor acknowledged that Ms. Warehime was responsible for a larger than usual number of files but did not reassign some of the files.
On top of the heavier workload, Ms. Warehime’s workplace was staffed with younger employees who made comments like “I don’t want to work when I’m your age” and “The old fuddy-duddy is coming in.”  When Ms. Warehime complained to her supervisor that an evaluation of her work was inaccurate and unfair, she was told to improve her performance.
The stress at work became so intense that she suffered a mental breakdown and was forced to take a leave of absence while being treated for depression and anxiety. She was cleared to return to work on June 12, 2006. But when she showed up to work, a young man was sitting at her desk. She had apparently been fired but was not informed about it.
In her lawsuit, Warhime contended she was treated differently than other employees because of her age, and that when she complained to her supervisor about it, she experienced retaliation through formal discipline that was designed to lead to her termination. Warhime also accused the employer of failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her request for two weeks part-time work and failing to engage her in a timely interactive process.
The employer contended that Ms. Warehime never embraced the new technology at work, that she rejected trainings, and her workload backed up, she blamed others for her problems. The employer also said that it had good reason to terminate her because she was low-balling customers on their claims, which led to lawsuits against the company.
After listening to the evidence, the jurors found that Ms. Warehime had been a victim of age discrimination and retaliation. They also concluded that her employer failed to accommodate her disability. The $749,000 verdict the jury awarded Ms. Warehime included damages for lost wages and benefits.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, or medical condition. This law applies to employers with 5 or more employees. Employees found to have been wrongfully terminated may be entitled to the following: reinstatement, back pay, loss of future earnings, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

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C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully obtained significant results, including several million dollar recoveries for consumers against insurance companies and employers.   He has been selected as a Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a member of the Million Dollar-Advocates Forum – a prestigious group of trial lawyers whose membership is limited to those who have demonstrated exceptional skill, experience and excellence in advocacy.  He has been featured in the cover of Los Angeles Daily Journal’s Verdicts and Settlements for his professional accomplishments and recipient of numerous awards from community and media organizations.  His litigation practice concentrates in the following areas: wage and hour (overtime) litigation, serious personal injuries, wrongful death, insurance claims, and unfair business practices.  His law firm is currently class counsel to thousands of employees seeking payment of wages in California courts. You can visit his website at www.joesayaslaw.com or contact his office by telephone at (818) 291-0088.  Inquiries to his law office are welcome and at no cost. 

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