$7.6 Million Wrongful Discharge Claim against Goldman Sachs

Two former employees of Goldman Sachs recently won a wrongful discharge claim against the company and earned award of $5.2 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. Additionally, one of the plaintiff was awarded $100,000 for a discrimination charge The case was two-folds – one involving withheld payments and the other involving possible employer retaliation against one of the plaintiffs.

Chris Barra and Luis Sampredo claim that they had been harassed and chastised by the branch manager in Goldman Sachs’s Los Angeles Office. The two had been working as an inseparable for the company for 9 years until their termination in 2007.

Barra holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves and had served in combat duty in Iraq in 1991. He volunteered to serve in the Army reserve again after the 9/11 terror attack. As per the claim made, their manager expressed anger over Barra’s military duties and subsequently started giving them bad performance reviews.

Further, the company changed its compensation plan requiring that a percentage of their commissions be held as restricted stock units that would vest over time. But Goldman fired the two just weeks before the stock vested.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ruled that the company had violated the Los Angeles wrongful termination laws. The panel further ruled in favor of the plaintiff for employer discrimination against military personnel.

Punitive damages are rare, particularly in wrongful discharge cases. As is customary, the arbitration panel didn’t give a reason for its decision

The case reinforces the rights available to employees when they believe they have been wrongfully terminated. It further sets forth sternly that companies should not discriminate against members of the military or discourage them from taking a leave of absence to fulfill their military duties.

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