Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates, Inc., a Santa Monica-based litigation law firm specializing in employee rights, obtained a $550,000 wrongful termination and discrimination jury verdict yesterday.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury reached its decision after just five hours of deliberation regarding Betty Ruelas’ lawsuit against Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, which had employed Ruelas since 1991. The jury also found that the district’s employees acted with malice in their mistreatment of Ruelas, who had become a whistleblower reporting illegal procedures taken by other district employees.

In her complaint, Ruelas alleged claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation on the basis of disability and complaints of illegal activity and wrongful constructive termination.

In trial, Shegerian and Ruelas detailed the series of increasingly malicious actions taken by Ruelas’ supervisors and coworkers after she returned to work following a leave of absence to take care of her terminally ill husband. Upon her return to work, Ruelas had reported suspicious and illegal activity taking place in the office and as a result became the target of a series of harassing and discriminatory actions by her supervisors. The behavior continued to escalate, causing undue emotional stress on Ruelas, which led to health issues and ultimately, a forced early retirement in 2013.

With the help of Shegerian & Associates, Ruelas will finally receive compensation for her suffering.

“Justice was served here today,” said Ruelas, after the award was announced. “Not only for myself but for others who are going through what I went through, so that they know what their legal rights are in situations like this.”

She said she hopes her case brings public attention to the fact that people in positions of authority must treat workers fairly and without discrimination.

“I would like to thank Carney Shegerian and his team at Shegerian & Associates,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the hard work that they put into my case, I would have never gotten justice. Because of them, my story was heard.”

“It’s an honor to have had the opportunity to represent Mrs. Ruelas,” said Shegerian. “She is an excellent example of someone who simply stood up for what she believed was right when she reported illegal activity pertaining to misappropriation of school district funds. Whistleblowers are too often wrongfully discriminated against. Hopefully this verdict and the justice served in Mrs. Ruelas’ case will put employers on notice that they cannot discriminate against employees who suffer from health or mental health conditions, nor can they retaliate against whistleblowers.”


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