Former UC Davis custodial worker Larry Miller filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents for alleged wrongful termination after he was fired a day after reporting his carpal tunnel syndrome to his supervisors on Aug. 23, 2022.
UC Davis Human Resources cited “excessive absenteeism and tardiness” as reason for Miller’s dismissal.
Miller was cited for being three to five minutes late to work on a few instances. However, up to seven minutes of tardiness is permitted by the Regents’ attendance policy.
The alleged absenteeism used to justify firing Miller included a four-hour sick leave — an unlawful justification for dismissal according to California Labor Code sections 233 and 234.
Miller’s supervisor also allegedly failed to inform him that he potentially had a workers’ compensation claim or offer him any accommodations.
Miller appealed his termination to Human Resources. Soon after, he learned that the carpal tunnel on his left hand was caused by repetitive motions often done for custodial work, and he filed a workers’ compensation claim through the Regents’ First Response system.
Miller’s termination was affirmed and ratified the following day.
In addition to a demand for a jury trial, Miller’s lawyers submitted a complaint to the Alameda County Superior Court on Sept. 1 listing seven complaints: “retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA; retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of public policy; hostile work environment harassment; disability discrimination; failure to accommodate; failure to engage in the interactive process and failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation in violation of FEHA.”
Miller’s lawyers claim that the Regents violated FEHA by allegedly firing Miller due to his medical condition. Miller allegedly suffered a loss of salary and benefits, a loss of employment opportunities, damage to his reputation, emotional distress and manifestation of physical symptoms as a result.
“(Regents) intentionally discriminated against (Miller) on account of his disability and protected activity, and in doing so, (Regents) acted maliciously, fraudulently and oppressively, with the wrongful intention of injuring (Miller),” said Sang Park, Miller’s lawyer, in the complaint.
The complaint also alleges that the Regents created a hostile work environment through Miller’s supervisors knowingly participating in the alleged unlawful behavior of firing Miller which caused him to suffer from stress, anxiety and humiliation.
Additionally, the Regents allegedly failed to prevent discrimination by not investigating Miller’s complaints about his termination being unlawful.
The Regents did not comment on the matter as the lawsuit is ongoing litigation that has not yet been served to them.
“The wrongful conduct of (Regents) described above was intended by (Regents), and each of them, to cause injury to (Miller) and was despicable, mean, and vile conduct carried on by (Regents), and each of them, with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights of (Miller), subjecting him to cruel and unjust hardship,” Park said in the demand.
Miller is requesting compensation for lost earnings, benefits and out-of-pocket expenses as well as lost future earnings and benefits; non-economic damages such as emotional distress, punitive damages, statutory penalties, attorneys’ fees and suit costs.