Six of the terminated employees sued their Port St. Lucie employer, and their lawyer characterized the terminations as resulting in the employees being “stripped of their dignity and treated like common criminals.” The employee’s lawyer presented the discharge as, “No reason was given. Just ‘Hasta la vista.’”
One employee said he didn’t know why he was fired. “I absolutely did not deserve this. It was not a budget issue; the [employer] is solvent.” The employee added that a “vendetta” was behind his termination, believing that he was involved in a “witch hunt.” He focused on the fact that the individual who terminated him, did so in a manner that ended his career with indignation, “and then he sat back and grinned.”
A Port St. Lucie employer decided to reorganize a department, which resulted in eliminating twelve positions. Six of the terminated employees filed a lawsuit against the Port Saint Lucie employer, claiming that they were wrongfully terminated.
The employer initiated the layoffs as a way to reduce the workforce to cope with the drop in revenue. The employer stated that most of the employees who were laid off “dealt with a difficult situation with grace…[but] there’s a small handful of our employees that took a different path….”
The lawsuit claimed age and gender-based discrimination, breach of contract and violation of free-speech rights, among other allegations.
Firing an employee with "hasta la vista."
The employer explained that the terminations were “not an easy thing, but it was the right thing, done the right way.”
The lawsuit specifically sought compensation for their back pay and their “pain and suffering and public humiliation.”
After several years of litigation, which certainly cost the employer a significant amount of money to litigate, the employer decided to pay out $750,000 to settle the case. Three of the employees will receive $200,000 each, and the other three employees will split $150,000. This massive settlement involved the employer’s insurance company, and did not require the employer to admit fault or liability. The employer agreed to pay this settlement after determining that it would have cost an additional $100,000 to go to trial, and if the employer lost at trial, it could have cost an amount of damages plus another $500,000 in legal fees for the six former employees.
A representative of the Port St. Lucie employer stated, “Oftentimes, for the good of the organization, you want to settle because ultimately it can drag down a lot of resources, cost a lot of money, cost a lot of time. Ultimately, I looked at this as a business decision.”
Port St. Lucie businesses may view this case with awe, but it is a real case. The employer is actually the City of Port St. Lucie, and the employees were terminated in 2012. The above “facts” were taken from local news reports, and the settlement was approved in 2018.This same employer also settled another employment discrimination case. In that prior case (from 2007) four employee filed a federal lawsuit alleging that they faced racial discrimination, in part by a supervisor who allegedly called them the “dark side” and “Aunt Jemima.”
All four employees claimed that the city treated them differently because of their race as three are black, and one is Hispanic. One of those employees, who was in the Army Reserves, claimed that she was ordered to active duty, and upon her return, found she was demoted from her supervisor position and replaced by a non-minority man. She alleged the employer violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by demoting her. The workers alleged that non-minority employees with less experience and seniority were promoted instead of them. This case was settled.
Business owners in Port St. Lucie, and anywhere on the Treasure Coast, can learn lessons from the above incidents. Even if the employer believes it has good grounds to terminate an employee, it still may decide that it is a better business decision to settle the discrimination lawsuit.
It is for this exact reason that the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. focuses on preventative advice. It is our goal to work with Port St. Lucie companies before a lawsuit is filed. It is always a lot less expensive to avoid an employment discrimination lawsuit, than to defend one.
If your Port St. Lucie company wants guidance with a matter, especially if you are contemplating termination, please email our law firm or call us at 1-772-465-5111.
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