Jury Rejects Employee’s Claim That She Was Terminated Due to Her Pregnancy and Gender, and in Retaliation for Disclosing Alleged Wrongdoing

Category: Client Update
Date: Apr 18, 2017 03:01 PM

LCW Partner Jesse Maddox and Associate Attorney Kimberly Horiuchi helped secure this victory for the City of Stockton. In October 2014, the City hired Plaintiff Jessica Glynn to be its first Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) Manager. The OVP was the brainchild of City Manager Kurt Wilson and was tasked with assisting law enforcement in reducing violent crime. The OVP was funded in large part by a sales tax increase because the rate of violent crime in Stockton was such a pressing issue for voters. 

The City hired Glynn when she was approximately five months pregnant. She was terminated four months later due to incompatibility of management styles. Glynn alleged she was terminated because of her pregnancy and gender in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.  In addition, she alleged the City terminated her employment in retaliation for her disclosure of information about alleged City wrongdoing (i.e., whistleblower retaliation under California Labor Code section 1102.5). At trial, Glynn sought $1.4 million in damages, plus her attorneys’ fees.

During trial, Glynn alleged that her direct supervisor, Assistant to the City Manager Christian Clegg, used “sexist code” to interfere with her job.  For example, when she informed him she was pregnant, Mr. Clegg told her that, for him, “family comes first.”  Glynn also inferred from Mr. Clegg’s religious affiliation that he believed she should stay at home with her baby.

The City presented evidence at trial that Glynn was poorly suited for the position and was a bad fit from the beginning of her employment. Despite never working in public service and not being from California, Glynn demanded a higher salary and a title change from “Manager” to “Director” after she had accepted the job, but before she began.  Although the City hired her at the top salary step, she continued to press for more money, alleging Department Heads like the Chief of Police and the Public Works Director made more.

The City also presented evidence that Glynn created turmoil among her subordinates, in part, by offering one of them a promotion without allowing others the opportunity to apply and expediting the retirement of a long-time City employee. Toward the end of her employment, Glynn missed a crucial filing deadline for a letter of intent, which precluded the City from receiving a $200,000 grant it had received the previous four years.

Glynn’s whistleblower retaliation claim stemmed from what she characterized as serious legal concerns pertaining to the manner in which the OVP operated. Despite being a supervisor and an attorney in other states, she never sought to verify that her concerns were, in fact, accurate.

After a ten-day trial, the jury issued a unanimous defense verdict in favor of the City finding that neither Glynn’s pregnancy, gender, nor her disclosures of information contributed to the City’s decision to terminate her employment.   

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