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Former CEO sues for wrongful termination and discrimination

Wrongful termination is not just a remedy for front-line employees - chief executives sometimes find a need to use the courts to receive their just due or to establish a legal principle. Recently, a former CEO of a California bank sued the bank for wrongful termination. The suit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

The claimant had been with the Oakland-based bank for about 10 years when he was wrongfully discharged, according to the complaint. He claims that he was a victim of age and disability discrimination. He also asserts that the employer retaliated against him because he investigated and enforced two charges of sex discrimination during his employment.

The claimant asserts that he investigated sexual harassment claims that resulted in an executive being placed on administrative probation. He also inquired about allegations of sexual harassment between a board member and a bank employee. He says that he was fired about one week after that second investigation was concluded.

He also claims age discrimination. He was 65 at the time of filing the complaint. In one letter to him from a board member in 2011, the member told him of his concern about his ability to make 'cognitive' decisions. The member also queried what they would do in the event of his 'sudden death'.

In the same letter, the member queried what the bank would do in the event of the claimant's 'incapacitation' or if he was unable to fulfill his duties. This may have been a response to the claimant's telling the board in 2011 of a heart condition that had no impact on his ability to perform his job. An employer may not take discriminatory action against the employee for perceived disabilities that do not interfere with the person's ability to do the job.

Furthermore, California and federal law regarding wrongful termination and disability discrimination requires that an employer must provide reasonable accommodations so that the employee can continue on the job despite the disability. If the employee cannot perform the duties of the job, even with reasonable accommodations, then the termination is not wrongful. In the lawsuit, the claimant requests compensation for lost income, health benefits, stock options and retirement plan benefits.

Source: San Francisco Business Times, "Community Bank of the Bay sued by its former CEO, Brian Garrett," Mark Calvey, May 22, 2013

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