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California power worker wins wrongful termination claim

A former energy company worker has received more than $1 million in a California claim for wrongful termination. The 44-year-old man, a former employee at PG&E, said he was fired after making complaints about safety concerns on the job. Jurors in the case agreed that the company did not have a legitimate cause for termination of the man's employment. The man received nearly $1.1 million in connection with lost wage claims, along with lost benefits allegations and those for emotional distress.

Official reports show that the man became concerned about on-the-job safety after he was ordered to take unsafe actions during an electrical pole repair in 2011. The man's supervisor told the power line workers and his colleagues to repair the power lines without shutting off the electricity to the poles. However, the high-voltage wires nearly touched during the repair. Had that occurred, a massive explosion could have occurred.

Even though no one was hurt in the incident, it could have been considered a safety near-miss. Further, another PG&E crew had opted out of doing the work because they found it too dangerous. The man also alleged that another crew was permitted to shut down the electricity on the very same line when they did maintenance just weeks later.

As a result, the man filed a safety claim with the company, and he told officials that he felt unsafe on the job after that time. Understandably, the man was afraid to go to work, suffering from panic attacks and even crippling anxiety. The man was given a month-long hiatus from work, but he was fired when he refused to come in during his off time to discuss his absence.

The utility company plans to appeal the judgment.

Workers in high-risk positions - such as utility line workers - deserve to feel safe at work. This employee felt that his safety was not a concern to his supervisors, so he suffered a variety of ill effects, including losing his job. Victims of retaliatory discharge may be eligible to file a wrongful termination claim to recover damages, as the man did in this case. No California employees should be afraid of on-the-job injury.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, "PG&E worker wins $1 million in Santa Cruz wrongful termination lawsuit" Stephen Baxter, Dec. 15, 2013

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