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Olive Grove Charter School charged with wrongful termination

A lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court alleges that a California educator was the victim of wrongful termination once she tried to alert a school's governing body to numerous improprieties by its executive director.

Olive Grove Charter School bills itself as an alternative to traditional schools, catering to those who prefer home schools or who want a mix of home school and traditional classroom activity for their children. It has a variety of locations around the Santa Barbara area.

The plaintiff initially started work there as a part-time combo "human resources/administrative assistant" but eventually rose up the ranks to become the school's controller and chief operating officer. Eventually, she had a salary of $103,000 per year. She was abruptly terminated, however, after she took some concerns to the school's Board of Directors.

The former employee alleged that the executive director was engaging in an illicit affair with the senior vice president of the school's biggest client, Charter School Management Corporation, which is a conflict of interest under California law.

However, the issues didn't stop there. The plaintiff also alleges that her former boss essentially treated the school as her own personal fiefdom. She hired one daughter to work as a teacher's assistant at a pay rate that was much higher than the norm, despite that daughter's lack of qualifications. When she was unhappy with another daughter's poor grades, she simply changed them to something better.

There were also questionable financial maneuvers going on -- like the purchase of a $10,000 saltwater fish tank for a nonexistent marine biology class and the misuse of school funds to facilitate the romantic liaisons between the executive director and her romantic partner.

The school, naturally, claims that the allegations are all unfounded -- but it does seem peculiar that a valued employee who rose through the ranks due to her merit would suddenly have poor work performance and deserve such a sudden termination.

Cases like these are a reminder that wrongful termination can be a problem in almost any industry -- and good people lose their jobs even for doing the right thing. You can fight back, however, with the right legal team on your side.

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