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California company sued for sexual harassment, wrongful discharge

Even if you’re only a casual television watcher, you’ve likely heard of Life Alert, or are at least familiar with the mainstay product it sells.

Indeed, and given the company’s ubiquitous presence on the tube, it would be hard for virtually any viewer to have remained unexposed to the veritable onslaught of ads that are obviously a central component of Life Alert’s business strategy.

Need a reminder? Just picture an actor portraying an elderly person lying helplessly on the kitchen floor who activates a wearable device and speaks these words to a remotely situated company representative: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

The Encino-based California company is now making news for more than its ads, and not the kind that Life Alert executives want to promote.

The company was sued this week in New York by a former sales manager whose legal complaint alleges wrongful termination prompted for a number of reasons.

Age discrimination is one factor that weighed heavily in his summary discharge late last year, says the 71-year-old man, who had worked for Life Alert for 12 years. He also states that the company terminated him because of a medical condition, even though he says that treatments for his illness did not interfere with his work schedule. Further still, his complaint alleges that the company sought to retaliate against him for his complaints regarding Life Alert’s practice of misclassifying workers as independent contractors in order to illegally cut business costs.

What the plaintiff says additionally — and strongly — configured into Life Alert’s termination decision were his consistently delivered complaints over many years regarding the active and purposeful sexual harassment of many female employees. He states that he delivered those complaints to Life Alert’s chief executive officer, but was simply told that, “nobody is forcing them to stay.”

The matter touches upon a central reality that exists in many wrongful termination matters, including in California, namely, that an illegal workplace discharge can owe to myriad and cumulative factors.

Those can sometimes make for a complex interweaving and invoke protections under federal, state and local laws.

A proven employment law attorney can answer questions and diligently promote the interests of any employee who is suffering unlawful treatment at his or her workplace.

Source: Metro US, “Life Alert accused of sexual harassment in ex-worker’s lawsuit,” Jonathan Stempel (Reuters), May 6, 2015


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