LOS ANGELES, CA – Matthew McNicholas, partner with Los Angeles-based plaintiff’s trial law firm, McNicholas & McNicholas, obtained a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the district court’s judgment, after a jury trial (which Mr. McNicholas tried to verdict in the trial court) in favor of Leonard Avila, an LAPD officer who claimed that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) fired him in retaliation for testifying in a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit brought by a fellow officer. The panel held that even after an officer was terminated through the Department’s Board of Rights, he could still sue in court for discrimination.
“The LAPD has always taken the position that if they fire you through their Board, you cannot sue them in court without appealing their Board. This case demonstrates this is not accurate,” said Mr. McNicholas. “We are extremely gratified that the Court of Appeals confirmed the jury’s verdict and the trial court’s rulings, and are proud to continue to protect employees’ rights.”
In January 2008, Mr. Avila testified under subpoena in a FLSA suit against the LAPD and City of Los Angeles in the Central District of California brought by fellow officer Edward Maciel, who sought overtime pay for working his lunch hours. Mr. Avila testified that he and many other LAPD officers, including his supervisors, operated under an unwritten policy of not claiming overtime for working through lunch. After Mr. Avila testified, the LAPD filed an internal investigation complaint against him and another officer, Richard Romney, who testified at the Maciel trial alleging that they had been insubordinate by not submitting requests for overtime. The LAPD Board of Rights found Mr. Avila and Mr. Romney guilty of insubordination and both were terminated.
Mr. Avila sued the LAPD and City of Los Angeles claiming that the real reason he was fired was not because he worked through lunch without requesting overtime, but because he testified in the prior lawsuit. The jury ruled in favor of Mr. Avila and awarded damages of $50,000. The district court entered a judgment on the jury verdict, and later amended it to award Mr. Avila $50,000 in liquidated damages and $579,400 in attorney’s fees. The total judgment, before interest, was $679,400
Mr. McNicholas also represented Mr. Romney in an identical case and obtained a $3,999,945 verdict. This verdict was larger than Mr. Avila’s because Mr. Romney was never able to be rehired while Mr. Avila was.
McNicholas & McNicholas, a Los Angeles-based plaintiff’s trial law firm, represents clients in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, employment law, class actions, sexual abuse and other consumer-oriented matters such as civil rights, aviation disasters and product liability. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, McNicholas & McNicholas has been trying cases to jury verdict on behalf of their clients for more than five decades.