A former Los Angeles union worker was awarded $8.46 million in late November after a jury found he was discriminated against and wrongfully terminated. Shegerian & Associates’ name partner Carney Shegerian represented the plaintiff, Talbert Mitchell, a 21-year employee of the Southern California Public Service Workers (SEIU) Local 721.

Mitchell claimed that SEIU discriminated against him due to his disability, taking medical leave, and ultimately wrongfully terminated him for whistleblowing. His last position was as an advocacy manager until September 2013, when he underwent a hernia surgery and had to take leave until January 2014. Before his medical leave, Mitchell directed a report that revealed the existence of a backlog of arbitration cases pending scheduling, which he contended ultimately was the responsibility of the legal department. The department denied its existence and refused accountability of the issue. Mitchell had previously raised similar concerns in the past.    

Upon his return, Mitchell was treated differently and passed over for promotion. A particularly damaging action was taken when he was told he’d receive a 5% pay cut.

In March of 2014, Mitchell was then terminated for alleged “insubordination,” despite no documentation being presented showing any type of prior disciplinary action. It was then revealed that SEIU had placed in his personnel file, after his termination, admittedly “enhanced” documents that purported to show his insubordination.

A Los Angeles jury’s verdict awarded Mitchell a $2,361,391 for the wrongful termination and an additional $6,100,000 in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $8,461,391.

“Talbert was morally treated wrong by his employer and superiors, and today a California jury of his peers announced that treatment was not only just illegal, but punishable,” said Carney Shegerian.

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