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Date: 11-08-2000

Case Style: Peggy Jo Taylor v. Ethan Allen, Inc.

Case Number: BC215039

Judge: Madeleine I. Flier

Court: Superior Court, Los Angeles County, California

Plaintiff's Attorney: Joseph M. Lovretovich of the Law Offices of Joseph M. Lovretovich, Woodland Hills, California

Defendant's Attorney: Stephen Harris of Wiggins & Dana, Hartford, Connecticutt and Herbert Moss, Los Angeles, California

Description: Wrongful Termination - Plaintiff was a six-year employee who was transferred to California as General Manager of the Thousand Oaks store that was not yet opened. Ethan Allen was rolling out a new computer system and put the Thousand Oaks store on the system while the rest of the LA District was on the old system. Order entry problems occurred and plaintiff began to complain to supervisors, defendants Marci Hawkins and Jean Timberlake. When Plaintiff's designers were unhappy with response they submitted a petition to the corporate office complaining about Hawkins and Timberlake. Corporate appointed Timberlake to do an investigation and instead of remedying the problems she put the Thousand Oakes store under scrutiny and eventually convinced corporate to demote plaintiff. Three weeks after demotion, plaintiff went out on disability leave from stress. None months later while still disabled, plaintiff resigned. Shortly after plaintiff's resignation, both Timberlake and Hawkins were terminated for failure to understand and implement the computer system.

Plaintiff claimed that she was wrongfully demoted in retaliation for complaining about accounting problems; that the problems could have resulted in unfair business practices and therefore the retaliation of public policy; that Timberlake and Hawkins set out to fabricate performance issues and by transmitting them to corporate defamed plaintiff with malice; that corporate the human relations department failed to conduct a fair and reasonable investigation of plaintiff complaints that she was a victim of retaliation; that the demotion of plaintiff was without good cause and therefore a breach of the implied contract and policies of Ethan Allen.

Defendants claimed that plaintiff was demoted for performance problems; that the demotion was not in retaliation for the petition submitted by the designers; that the communication to corporate was made in the ordinary course of business and was a privileged business communication.

Outcome: First, the court granted defendants' nonsuit as to constructive discharge and discharge in violation of public policy. The jury found for plaintiff on the implied contract cause of action 9-3 and awarded $13,424.00; the jury hung 8-4 in favor of plaintiff on the defamation causes of action as to Timberlake and Hawkins; and found for plaintiff 9-3 as to defamation cause of action against Ethan Allen and awarded her $150,000.00.

Plaintiff's Experts: None

Defendant's Experts: None

Comments: None

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