Peter Albrecht has waited almost nine long years for this day, but after almost a decade, he was able to present his case to an Orange County Superior Court jury and obtain a verdict awarding him 2.15 million dollars against his former employer, UCI Medical Center (“UCI”). Albrecht’s case was originally filed in November 2013, following his May 2013 termination by UCI. After more than eight years of litigation, including a lengthy appeal, justice has finally been served.
In his complaint, Albrecht alleged UCI leadership subjected him to retaliation and ultimately terminated his employment because of his disability. According to Albrecht’s attorneys, he had an exceptional career at UCI and was an excellent nurse who received numerous positive performance evaluations and compliments. In 2007, Albrecht suffered significant work-related injuries when he protected two female medical students from an attacking patient who was suffering psychosis induced by methamphetamine in the neuropsychiatry department. As a result, Albrecht had to undergo knee replacement surgery, suffered a detached retina, and was plagued with chronic back pain.
After this workplace attack, and ensuing medical treatment, UCI moved Albrecht to a medical center for teens and pre-teens. Unfortunately for Albrecht, his back pain continued. Moreover, he found himself in a facility clouded by a toxic work environment. One of the social workers made discriminatory comments about Albrecht’s age and falsely accused him of making patient errors. The director of the program shunned Albrecht as a result of those false allegations and asked other employees to keep an eye on Albrecht.
All the while, Albrecht battled chronic back pain which led to him requesting intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Pursuant to the FMLA, Albrecht was allowed to take leave intermittently when he suffered episodes of back pain. Albrecht’s bosses were not sympathetic to Albrecht’s condition and, in fact, were suspicious of his intermittent leave requests. They even asked Albrecht when he planned to retire. Eventually, UCI terminated Albrecht’s employment in May 2013.
Despite filing suit against UCI in November 2013, Albrecht did not get his day in court until April 2022, almost a decade later. In fact, his day in court seemed an impossibility when the Court previously granted summary judgment to UCI, essentially dismissing Albrecht’s claims. Albrecht’s attorneys appealed this ruling and were able to have it overturned, in part. After this appeal, Albrecht was able to proceed with some of his claims. Proceeding to trial, an Orange County Superior Court jury who heard Albrecht’s case determined UCI wrongfully terminated Albrecht and awarded him $1 million dollars in economic damage and $1.15 million dollars for the emotional distress he suffered. Following the trial, Albrecht, now 73, told the media he felt “vindicated.”
Wrongful termination claims are based on a fundamental public policy. For example, cases similar to Albrecht’s can be based on the public policy prohibiting discrimination and retaliation against individuals who suffer from a physical or mental disability, request a reasonable accommodation or request a protected leave of absence, such as those provided under the FMLA or California Family Rights Act.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy, you should speak with an experienced employment attorney in Orange County. Ares Law Group’s attorneys have extensive experience handling wrongful termination claims.