Employee wins wrongful termination lawsuit after 5-year fight

Despite what many California workers might hope, filing -- and winning -- an employment lawsuit doesn't happen overnight. Those who feel they've been treated unfairly and unlawfully by an employer can't simply call a lawyer and walk away with a small fortune by the time their next paycheck is due. Filing a discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuit can be a long and complicated process, and until an outcome is reached, plaintiffs may suffer some professional and financial hardship, depending on their situation. Some cases can take years to resolve, even with the most qualified attorney.

A man who once worked as the spokesman for San Mateo, California-based Tesla Motors is celebrating a long and hard-fought victory in a wrongful termination lawsuit he filed back in 2008. It wasn't until this month that the company was court-ordered to pay its former director of communications $207,000 in damages.

The lawsuit wasn't based solely on the contention that the man should not have been fired, though he maintains that he and 25 other employees were let go without warning. The man was hired at the beginning of 2007, did his job extremely well and received good performance evaluations, according to his lawsuit. Then in December, he and more than two dozen employees were handed pink slips. But making matters worse, the lawsuit claims, the company publicly disparaged him, calling him and the other fired workers "bottom-performers." This claim, the ousted spokesman said, was not only false, but prevented him from finding work anywhere else.

The damages award compensates the man for Tesla's violation of his employment contract, along with back pay and stock options. Fortunately, the plaintiff did eventually find other gainful employment in the auto industry. But not all employees who are wrongfully terminated have the same success. Yes, you may come out of an employment lawsuit victorious and well-compensated. But the financial and emotional stakes can be high in such cases, which is just one reason it's important to find the right attorney if you choose to pursue legal action against an employer.

Source: Jalopnik.com, "Ex-Tesla Spokesman David Vespremi Wins Lawsuit Years After Firing," Patrick George, April 17, 2013

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