The workplace should be a place where employees can feel safe and secure based on their performance. If employees do their jobs well, they should look forward to going to work and being productive members of society. Unfortunately, the workplace can often be seen as a trap of office politics and possible discrimination. In California, employees can be fired at the will of the employer, but that doesn’t mean that employee rights can be ignored.
A jury has ruled in favor of an ex-employee of California-based Playboy Enterprises. The employee is set to receive a $6 million payout after her termination in 2012 was found to be retaliation for whistleblowing. Her complaint claims that, in her position as controller, she was asked to accrue $1 million worth of bonuses for top executives, but she refused since the board had not approved the bonuses. After reporting suspected fraudulent activity to management, she was fired in retaliation.
The jury also found that the woman, who was 56 at the time of her termination, faced discrimination based on her age. Playboy has stated that they strongly disagree with the decision and expressed the possibility of an appeal. However, as it stands, the former employee has the potential to receive even more in punitive damages.
Retaliation to whistleblowing is only one of the types of wrongful termination that Californians are protected from under the law. Employees are also protected from harassment or discrimination based on race, gender or disability. No one should be frightened into silence or worry that his or her employment is at risk simply for doing the right thing or because of age. Know that your employers don’t have infinite power and that you, as an employee, have rights.
Source: USA Today, “Playboy must pay $6M to fired whistleblower,” Evann Gastaldo, March 7, 2014