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Teacher Wins $1.8 Million Jury Award for Wrongful Termination

Fellow attorney Mary-Alice Coleman reports a $1.8 million award to a teacher in a wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against her former employer, private school operator Phoenix Schools Inc. Jennifer Scott had been director for Phoenix’s private preschool in Rocklin for 12 years. She was fired when she refused to enroll a child on a day when no teachers were available for the 2-year-old classroom. When the parents complained to corporate headquarters, it immediately terminated her for “failing to maximize enrollment”. Phoenix’s owners, both attorneys, failed to appear at their depositions or the trial.

The case went before a Placer County Superior Court jury consisting of 8 men and 4 women. The jurors voted unanimously in favor of plaintiff on all counts and verdict amounts, finding that Ms. Scott had been fired for refusing to violate California laws regarding student-teacher ratios. The verdict breakdown was as follows:

– $100,000 lost past wages
– $500,000 lost future wages
– $500,000 emotional distress
– $750,000 punitive damages

Judge James Garbolino presided over the suit. Counsel for the defense was Bruce Scheidt of Sacramento law firm Kronick, Moscovitz, Tiedemann & Girard. In the past, Placer County jurors have been somewhat unsympathetic to plaintiffs. Recently, however, jurors there have begun issuing notable verdicts.

Phoenix’s VP of Corporate Development, Sharon Moran, stated that Phoenix intends to file post-trial motions and possibly appeal.

It always amazes me when employers take a case like this to trial instead of settling early. When a verdict like this comes out, especially in a conservative county, you wonder, will they ever learn?

Congratulations to Ms. Coleman. The holidays just became a lot merrier for her and her client.

1 Comment

  1. Victoria Jones on June 1, 2017 at 8:36 am

    I was medically terminated from my school district on 5/4 after my 100 days were up. I’m a probationary teacher who went on medical leave after 3 of the 4 required tenure-track evaluations. The three I had were stellar. When I spoke to my principal about returning, she discouraged it and told me that she wouldn’t hold my spot open if she didn’t have to because I’m a liability because I could get sick again. She said I’d probablyseen the same way by the district since I was probationary when I went on leave. Through a series of no communication to the communication of incorrect information provided to me by the district , I’ve been medically terminated and lost my benefits when they told me in writing that would not happen. Now I’m unemployed, still under several doctor’s care, and having to figure out how I’m going to go from my doctors who are all networked with each other and only take PPOs to my husband’s HMO coverage. I can’t go to follow-ups and procedures that I have scheduled. This is devastating for me. The first few weeks of my leave I went above and beyond doing report cards and sub plans. Partly out of my work ethic, but partly because I felt pressure from the administrator who would have determined whether I was tenured if I had returned.

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