California Labor Law Attorney Helps Terminated Employee Win Appeal


San Diego, CA James was terminated from his job as an independent contractor at Superior Installation Solutions for an incident that violates California labor law. His disgruntled employer also attempted to deny James's unemployment insurance benefits, but James found an attorney who worked pro bono to help win his appeal.

"Due to the economy, there was much less work in my industry. I'm an appliance installer for big department stores such as Lowell's, so we typically pick up handyman plumbing work on the side," James explains.

"We never had a contract with Superior stating that this was against the rules. Our employee handbook mentioned nothing about conflict of interest.

"One Saturday, which is my day off, my friend Carol called to ask if I could fix her dishwasher leak. Carol had already called Lowe's, where she bought the dishwasher, but no luck. I suggested she call my company but they didn't return her call, so I helped??"as a friend, not as an employee of Superior or Lowe's.

"After I fixed the leak I noticed that her faucet was corroded. 'Sometime down the road you might want to replace it,' I told Carol. 'James, since you're here, please go ahead, and I'll pay for your time,' she said. I was reluctant, but she needed it done.

"To make a long story short, Curtis, the owner of Superior, found out. When I phoned Superior about my next job, I was asked to bring in my uniform because I was terminated. Curtis mentioned the faucet, but I knew it was more than that. For the past month there had been issues between us.

"Curtis had fired Shannon, a co-worker of mine, without just cause. I am a shareholder in the company, which means I was entitled to vote on whether Shannon should be fired. But I was on vacation, and they had a stalemate on the vote. When I came back to work they had to re-vote. Shannon is on medical leave, so how can he be fired? Curtis said he wasn't doing good work, but I didn't think it was right, so I voted 'no.'

"This decision created a rift between us; he just used the faucet incident to justify my termination.

"It was almost a relief to get fired because he was causing me so much grief. Then I filed for unemployment insurance and was denied. Turns out that Curtis filed a letter with unemployment saying that I had stolen money??"relating to the faucet incident. So I filed an appeal.

"Meanwhile, I had been job hunting for a few months??"I had no income and became desperate. I applied at Pacific Express, one of our competitors, and he hired me. But Curtis continued to haunt me. I know this is complicated, but in a nutshell, Curtis complained about me to Lowe's, which does business with Pacific Express. Lowe's put the pressure on Pacific Express to fire me.

"My attorney came over to Carol's house with me and drafted a letter regarding the faucet incident; Carol wrote that she insisted that I get compensated for my time. The judge reversed the decision and I got unemployment benefits dating back three months.

"My lawyer is now investigating the role that Lowe's had in my termination because I didn't work for that company.

"When you leave a job and have any qualms about an employee that should be the end of it. Instead, Curtis holds a grudge against me and wants retaliation for his own satisfaction. As it happens, Superior is closing. I can't say that I feel sorry for Curtis. He fired me almost a year ago so I had to pick up my W2, a record of my earnings and tax deductions. Curtis told me he mailed it weeks ago but I never got it??"yet another violation of the California labor law. Obviously his ship is going down but he still wants to make my life difficult."

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