While many employers can fire at-will employees for almost any reason, there are certain protections designed to prevent workers from being terminated for unfair reasons. Employers in California cannot fire employees for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation against the employee. When employees are fired for unscrupulous reasons, or an employee's contract is terminated for discriminatory reasons, a wrongful dismissal may have taken place.
When a wrongful dismissal takes place, the employee may be compensated for any losses suffered. However, sometimes a wrongful termination can lead to more than just monetary damages. A recent case in California highlights how easily this type of discrimination can damage a person's reputation and ruin future professional prospects.
In this case, the former chief medical officer at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center was placed on paid administrative leave last September. Since that time, he has been forced to stay home during working hours. While details have not been made public, the man claims that he was wrongfully dismissed from his job. Furthermore, the man expects that he will shortly be terminated from his position altogether.
The doctor filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against two county officials from the hospital earlier this summer. In the lawsuit, the man claims that the officials leaked information about his departure to the media. The media then ran stories which included untrue, defamatory statements about the man and his job performance.
These untrue stories allegedly hurt the man's reputation in the public, with his patients and within the medical community. They made it appear as if he had done something wrong, even though he was apparently dismissed for personal issues.
These statements, along with the dismissal, could make it very difficult for the man to find work in the future. The man is suing for $50 million for the damages to his reputation from the dismissal. Though this may seem like a very large sum of money to be awarded, the damage done to the man's reputation could likely affect his ability to earn income in the future.
Source: Daily Breeze, "Former Harbor-UCLA medical chief files lawsuit," Kristen S. Agostoni, July 8, 2012