D.A. vs. Major Grocery Chain

August 2013

Our client was a successful manager of a profitable department at this grocery chain. She had experienced numerous issues of anxiety and depression due to the harassment and micro-management of her direct supervisor. The company refused to give her a permanent transfer to a different store, wrote her up and suspended her for “attendance” issues (many lates were allegedly due to her depression), and ultimately terminated her while on medical leave.

In security a major victory for her at mediation, we overcame numerous legal difficulties with the case, including both covered and uncovered attendance issues and a gray area as to whether the client was on personal “leave of absence” or eligible for family medical leave.Many times, a case like this presents challenges that no one except a jury can resolve. Thus, it is in both parties’ interest to resolve the case in mediation if it can be fair to both sides.We are very proud of our ability to show the mediator and defendants that harassment by a manager which results in emotional distress is not always a workman’s compensation issue.

In a mediated settlement, we were able to further sweeten the pie but assuring that NONE of the proceeds were labeled as W-2 wages. We always advise our clients (including this one) to seek advise from their tax attorney as we don’t practice tax law. Most professional tax advisors tell our clients that allegations of physical injury protect the client from taxable income. In many cases, an apportionment is agreed upon at the time of settlement between taxable and non taxable income and withholding occurs on only a portion.

California courts routinely order parties to mediate their disputes. In the gray/cloudy area of employment law, mediation is a great way to have a n impartial and knowledgable person review the facts and give good advise to all sides.


Attorney Pip N. Smits

Ms. Pip N. Smits moved to the USA from The Netherlands in 1985, with one suitcase and $100.00, to pursue an acting career. She has since gone on to a great career in law, working as co counsel with Steve Danz in the representation of hundreds of California employees. Pip is lead attorney in our Inland Empire office, located in San Bernardino. Her geographic areas include all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Her office is located across the street from the San Bernardino County Courthouse with ample free parking for our clients. Pip’s successful cases have included health care employees and, as she is former in house counsel for a major regional hospital, she brings special expertise and “view from the other side” to her work. She is a highly energetic, caring attorney who routinely swamps the opposition with discovery requests. This assists us not only in uncovering all aspects of our client’s cases, but in encouraging defendants to consider early settlements.