Farmer's claims adjuster claims age discrimination after termination; $749,000. Fresno County.
Experienced claims adjuster is fired at age 60, says younger adjusters and supervisor discriminated against her. She is fired after going out on medical leave for stress.
- Case Name: Sharron Warehime v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, et al
- Court and Case Number: Fresno County Superior Court / 08 CE CG 02976
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, November 04, 2013
- Date Action was Filed: Sunday, August 17, 2008
- Type of Action: Employment
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Jeffery Y. Hamilton, Jr.
- Plaintiffs: Sharron Warehime, 60, claims adjuster
- Defendants: Farmers Insurance Exchange
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $749,000
- Economic Damages:
$433,331 past loss
$59,406 future loss
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Punitive Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 weeks
- Jury Deliberation Time: 7 hours
- Jury Polls: 11-1 on two claims, 12-0 on two claims and affirmative mixed motive defense.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff: Wanger Jones Helsley PC by Patrick D. Toole, Fresno.
- Attorney for the Defendant: Tharpe & Howell by Chris Maile, Sherman Oaks.
- Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Jeannie M. McNulty, economist, Los Angeles.
- Defendant's Technical Experts: Dr. Rick Sarkisian, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Fresno.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff was hired by Farmers on January 21, 2002, as an attorney-represented claims adjuster. At that time, she had over fifteen years of experience in the insurance industry. Plaintiff’s first assignment with Farmers was as a member of a four-person team hired to settle litigated matters on “legacy files,” which were older paper files. Plaintiff’s team worked to close paper claim files first in Visalia, Martinez, and Pleasanton, working from home but reporting to the branch offices.
Plaintiff received a positive performance evaluation in that capacity, rated as either outstanding or satisfactory in each category evaluated. As Farmers’ project to close out legacy files neared completion, legacy teams were dismantled, with selected adjusters retained and transferred to general claims handling offices, and others being laid off. Based on her record of performance, plaintiff was retained and in August 2003, was transferred to the Fresno office.
After her initial seven months in the Fresno office, plaintiff asked to be assigned a direct supervisor and to be given a performance review. She also asked for her own caseload rather than working on cases assigned to other adjusters. She was then given a much larger caseload than anyone else in the office, including problematic files from an employee who had been fired.
Between March, 2004 and October, 2005 plaintiff requested from her direct supervisor help and a reduction in caseload. Supervisor acknowledged in written documents that plaintiff was responsible for a larger than usual number of files, but never provided concrete help.
In response to plaintiff’s complaints of harassment and unfair treatment on October 3, 2005, her immediate supervisor conducted “case reviews” on Warehime’s files, which culminated in a “Formal Warning” (a progressive discipline document) on December 12, 2005. This was followed by a 60-day “Formal Warning Extension” on January 24, 2006, and thirty-five days after the 60-day extension, a “Probation Memo” on February 28, 2006.
At the beginning of March, 2006, plaintff took a leave of absence as recommended by her doctor, due to work-related stress. When she returned in June, 2006 with a request to work half time, she was terminated.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That staff in the Fresno office made derogatory statements about older people, targeting plaintiff and another man that plaintiff had recommended for the job. That older man ended up quitting after much negative treatment.
That she was treated differently than other claims adjusters becuase of her age, and that when she complained to her supervisor in October 2005, that Farmers retaliated against her through formal discipline that was escalated to termination in June 2006.
Defendant company also failed to accomodate her request for two weeks part-time work and entrance into the interactive process before she was terminated.
Plaintiff alleged the following four FEHA causes of action:
(1) Age Discrimination;
(3) Failure to Engage in a Timely Interactive Process to Determine Effective Reasonable Accommodations; and
(4) Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodations.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Defendant denied all allegations.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Plaintiff was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified and depressive disorder, not otherwise specified, brought on by her work stress.
The June 2006 termination caused further extreme emotional distress. As a result, professional treatment was required through August 2007.
Past Economic Damages Total: $432,651
Health Benefits: $8,952
Profit Sharing Benefit: $50,135
Penalties/Taxes from Early W/drawal of Savings Plan: $5,616
Loss of Farmers’ Pension Benefit: $1,724
Offset of Farmers’ Pension Benefit: ($9,258)
Offset Earnings – Piecework: ($300)
Future Economic Damages Total: $59,802
Loss of Farmers’ Pension Benefit: $95,641
Offset of Farmers’ Pension Benefit:($35,839)
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $385,000
- Defendant §998 Offer: $20,000
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $24,000
This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.
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