California Employees Entitled to Punitive Damages

As a Los Angeles-based employment law firm representing employees only, we seek punitive damages for our employee-clients who are harmed by adverse employment actions, such as whistle blowers who are terminated for refusing to violate the law. The standards for awarding of punitive damages are “malice, oppression or fraud” by an officer, director or managing agent of the employer. Civil Code 3294.

A recent non-employment case reaffirmed a basic principal of this right to seek punitive damages. While the essence of the case had to do with a premature “appeal”, the appellate court reaffirmed the need to prove these two elements by “clear and convincing evidence”, which is a higher standard than needed to prove liability, which is determined by “preponderance”, meaning more likely than not. ¬†Unfortunately for the plaintiffs in this case, they had reserved punitive damages to a further hearing (incorrectly called a “trial”, whereas punitive damages are decided (uusually by the same jury) at the Punitive Damages “Phase” of the Trial. tThe future hearing, which resulted in substantial damages, was held after the appeal was filed. Thus, the court had no jurisdiction. Our firm routinely files appeals only through certified appellate specialists.

While there can be a delay in collecting your judgment if the defendant employer appeals, there is the benefit of knowing its secured by a bond. A little more frosting: The judgment acrues interest at 10%. Not bad in this day of very low interest rates.

Happy to chat with you about your employment law case. We are California’s premiere employee-only law firm with offices throughout this great State!

Steve Danz