Glendale, CA asked in Employment Discrimination and Employment Law for California

Q: concern for wrongful termination, discrimination of protected class, ageism.

68yo teletherapy psychiatrist terminated BY EMAIL and instructed she HAD TO sign the document. An extended unpaid leave was forced on Dr earlier in year after she went into ICU for blood infection. She was told in the email that she was counseled twice for being abrupt with nurse, 'unprofessional' behavior to online clients, 'HIPAA violations', 'poor performance'. When Dr asked for details she was referred to HR.

The Dr had Med Board action on her license 15 yrs ago, which was overturned on appeal. This current termination must be reported to Board if not by the employer, then by the Dr at her License renewal. This termination could spell a death blow to Dr's ability to provide for herself. QUESTIONS:

1) can termination be negotiated to separation, for purposes of finding another job?

2) can ageism and discrimination against medical illness be claimed as ADA violations in this termination to help effect an outcome that does not injure Dr?

3) is it LEGAL to fire someone by EMAIL ??

2 Lawyer Answers
Louis George Fazzi
Louis George Fazzi
Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Jess Ranch, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It is legal to fire someone by email.

You may have an age discrimination claim, as well as a disability discrimination claim. To pursue those claims, you can go to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing's website (https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/) and file your claim online to get a head start on that.

Most importantly, however, you should find a lawyer in your area who handles discrimination cases, and seek her advice immediately. There is a really good lawfirm very near you with very capable lawyers who can give you the best legal advice on how you should proceed.

I am not at liberty to name them here, but you can easily search Google for outstanding discrimination lawyers near you.

Neil Pedersen
Neil Pedersen
Answered
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Westminster, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I am sorry to hear this is happening to you. It must be quite upsetting given the long term effects of these actions.

This is the kind to thing that I think you would be far better off by getting specific, confidential guidance from an attorney, rather than through a short answer in a public internet site.

Generally, to answer your questions without going into specifics,

Yes, it is possible to negotiate separation if the employer is willing to do so. It really depends on it willingness to work with you. You cannot legally force it.

There are no facts in your post that suggests age discrimination other than the mere fact you are age 68. If there is more, that would need to be explored. Also, more would need to be known about the circumstances surrounding the unpaid leave to know if that action was in any way unlawful. In short, while age and disability discrimination are viable theories to combat a termination, far more would need to be learned to allow anyone to tell you if (a) you have a viable claim under either or both theories, and (b) whether a causal connection between those wrongs and your termination can be found.

As to the method of termination, unless you have a contract providing for something else, the law allows an employer to terminate an employee in any manner that communicates the employer's decision to terminate. Email, text, or any other form of communication is sufficient.

At this point it would be prudent to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.

Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.

Good luck to you.

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