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January 2018

Los Angeles Team Prevails with Defense Verdict in a Disability Discrimination, Failure to Accommodate and Wrongful Termination Case

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Los Angeles senior partner Stephen Ronk, partner Erika Shao, with assistance from associate Nicole Lomibao, successfully defended a large, national insurance company against a disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and wrongful termination claim tried to a jury in the Los Angeles Superior Court. 

The plaintiff argued that he was terminated from his employment due to his alleged disability of a history of having a bad back and that the company failed to accommodate his requests to work from home or have a cot in his office to lay down occasionally.  He further claimed that his employer failed to engage in any interactive process to reach an accommodation and rather terminated his employment while he was on a disability leave after a sham investigation into his corporate credit card usage. The plaintiff claimed that he is now permanently disabled.

The plaintiff worked in various capacities for Gordon & Rees’s client, including piloting the company’s hot air balloon and assisting in the client’s hot air balloon and airship programs as part of the company’s marketing reach. The defense team was able to show that the plaintiff was terminated after the employer conducted a finance review and corporate security investigation into his corporate credit card and uncovered that the plaintiff had mischaracterized numerous charges on his expense reports to make them appear to be company reimbursable business expenses. The expense reports contained false descriptions for delinquency fees and late fees charged on his credit card listing them as “parking” or “helium for airship,” so that the company would pay for these expenses. The defense team also demonstrated at trial that the plaintiff had purchased airfare on his corporate credit card for a family trip to Hawaii, yet listed the airfare as a company reimbursable expense on his expense reports so that the company ultimately paid for his family’s airline tickets. 

After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning a defense verdict on all of the plaintiff’s causes of action.

The Los Angeles team would also like to thank paralegal Marita Navarro and project analyst Jesse Orosz for their invaluable help in achieving this result.

Nicole T. Lomibao
Stephen E. Ronk
Erika L. Shao