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California Court Rules Out Wrongful Termination in Law Firm Case

A California court's summary judgment was filed on Wednesday in regards to a wrongful termination case against a San Francisco law firm. Appellant Sandra Chew's accusations of wrongful termination following the April 4, 2007 loss of her job has met defeat--twice.

The court's most recent ruling upholds a summary judgment rendered previously. Due to the lack of evidence that clearly supports Chew's allegations that her termination was a retaliatory action, the case never moved forward to trial.

Chew's former employer proved in court that they had a legal, legitimate reason to terminate her employment at their firm. On March 27, 2007, Chew showed up late to work. Standard procedure at the firm was that employees enter their hours into a computer system. On that day, Chew forgot to enter her time of arrival into the system until she had allegedly already forgotten at what time she arrived at work.  

Chew was going to try to find out when exactly she arrived and entered only "6 a" in the computer. She claims she simply forgot to go back and fill in the minutes; therefore, the system read that Chew got to work about 20 minutes before she truly did that day.

The falsification of time records is a terminable offense at the law firm. So when Chew was fired for that reason in April 2007, the company was within their rights to do so.

Chew challenged her termination in court because of a conversation she had with her supervisor right before she was fired. She had suggested that her manager showed favoritism to the newer and younger employees in the office and that she was watched much more closely and reprimanded more than the favored workers.

The fact that that conversation did take place and that Chew's termination was arranged the day following it, gave her case enough validity to go before a court. However, both the trial court and court of appeals have decided that the law firm's termination of Chew's employment was legal. Her former employer adequately proved that Chew falsified her time records and that they have no recorded history of discriminating against other employees.   

To effectively combat the perceived legality of her termination, Chew needed to show that other employees got away with falsifying their timecards and that she was treated more harshly. The courts then could have looked at the issues of discrimination and retaliation more seriously.

But no such evidence existed.

Resource

Chew v. Williams Lea