Employer Punished for Suing Employee in Retaliation for Employee’s Public Policy Suit

Dr. Jadwin sued his employer, Kern County, in federal court, for placing him on administrative leave in retaliation for his complaints about patient care and other violations. This underlying federal case subsequently resulted in a verdict of over $500,000.00 to Dr. Jadwin.

Instead of heeding the warning of being particularly careful not to retaliate, or appear to retaliate, against an employee with a pending claim, the County of Kern threw caution to the wind and sued Dr. Jadwin in state court, claiming that the good doctor filed a false claim for $3125 in expenses. Fresno’s claim against Dr. Jadwin was assigned to mandatory arbitration where Dr. Jadwin prevailed. After a variety of inappropriate maneuvering by the County, the State Court ruled that Fresno’s claim was frivolous and brought to harass Dr. Jadwin.

The Court of Appeals, in County of Kern v Jadwin (July 5, 2011) — C.A. 4th — –, 2011 WL 2611819, affirmed the finding by the trial court that the case was frivolous and upheld the trial court’s award of $50,000.00 in attorney’s fees. The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that the facts “‘paint a picture . . .’ of a lawsuit filed and maintained for the purpose of harassing Jadwin.”

This case drives home the lesson that an employer must tread lightly once an employee has filed a claim, and should ensure that the employee is treated the same as other employees. It is equally true that, once an employee makes or anticipates making a claim of any sort, he or she should understand that his/her actions may be put under the employer’s microscope, and thus the employee should use every effort to comply with all company rules and regulations and perform work in an exemplary manner while under this microscope!

Jody LeWitter
July 25, 2011