A trial date has been set for the unique wrongful termination case brought against Coast Surgery Center by its former employee, Sheila Gunst. Gunst, who is represented by Carney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates, Inc., a Santa Monica-based litigation law firm specializing in employee rights, claims she was wrongfully terminated while on disability leave caring for her dying husband.

Gunst worked at Coast Surgery Center of South Bay from 2010 to 2014 as a Senior Collector. During her time at the Center, she exhibited an exemplary job performance and was even named the Center’s “Business Office Employee of the Year” in 2011.

On July 26, 2013, Gunst brought her husband into the Center to have a surgery performed. During the surgery, Gunst’s husband suffered cardiac arrest and was left in a coma up to his death on December 22, 2013. In order to care for her ailing husband, Gunst took California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) leave and went on disability. For the five months her husband was in a coma, she visited him every day to care and support him.

During the entire period Gunst was caring for her husband, management employees from the Center made verbal assurances to her that her job was secure and “would be there for her when she was ready to return.”

In February 2014, after her husband died, Gunst filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Center, which is when she says, the Center began acting unlawfully toward her. In her complaint, Gunst claims that a supervisor began pressuring her to return to work, setting a March 1, 2014 return date. After Gunst pushed back and explained that she was still on valid disability leave, she says she was informed by the Center’s HR team that she had two choices: “either quit or resign.” Gunst reports that she attempted to explain that failing to extend her disability was causing her harm, but she says her supervisor responded that she “did not feel that was the case.”

Gunst was terminated on April 4, 2014. She claims that when she asked for the specific cause for her termination, she was told “there was no cause.”

Gunst is now suing the Center for wrongful termination because she believes she was fired for taking protected CFRA disability leave.

“As a consequence of Coast Surgery Center’s conduct as an employer, our client Ms. Gunst – a hard-working employee with a sterling performance record – has suffered and will continue to suffer psychological and emotional distress, humiliation, and mental and physical pain and anguish,” said Shegerian. “Retaliation and unfair treatment of employees who are out on protected disability is an ethical problem that cannot be tolerated. It’s our job to help her seek justice in court.”

The trial is scheduled to begin on August 1, 2017.

(Case no. BC556362)


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