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Quote of the Day - Work is a necessity for man. Man invented the alarm clock. - Pablo Picasso
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An Alarming Employee Discrimination Verdict

There you are, ready to go home, and that damn alarm goes off again.  For the fortieth time.  You work at the City of Colton, California's wastewater treatment plant.  It's late and you just know the alarm is a false one.  It's been on and off that way for awhile.

The book says you go check.    Just hit the reset button and it'll go off.  Buzzzt.  There - silence once more. 

Whoop, whoop, whoop. 

There it goes again.  Well, the reset button didn't work.  What the hell.  Clock says it's time to go home.  At least you won't have to listen to that alarm anymore.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I imagine it went something like that.  Daniel Villanueva, the Lead Operator of the City's wastewater plant, went home instead and left the City's wastewater treatment plant in the alarm condition overnight. As a result, the wastewater system overflowed and City had to report that it violated the conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the California State Water Quality Control Board.

If Villanueva had gone to look at the cause of the alarm, then he would have found that the alarm was not false. Because he didn't, the City suspended him for five days.  Later during a budget crisis, the City cut more than 35 jobs, and in part due to Villanueva's poor performance, the City terminated him.

He sued the city under the Federal Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), claiming employment discrimination. The City filed a summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  On top of it, the City won an award of attorneys against Villanueva.  More than $40,000 worth.

Villanueva appealed, claiming in part he didn't have enough money to pay the attorney's fees and costs award, but the court of appeals sustained the trial court's ruling, reasoning that FEHA allowed an award of fees and costs to the winner, and Villanueva lost.

I've covered before why he lost; he didn't produce sufficient evidence of discrimination by the City.  Villanueva did submit some deposition transcripts and declaration, but the City objected and the Court upheld the objections, and excluded the submitted evidence.  Without proof, the City's evidence of a sufficient reason to fire Villanueva is more than sufficient to defeat his claims.

Case closed, alarm off. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 01:44 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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