Both sides agree that plaintiff Warehime was hired to work in the Visalia office in January 2002. At the time, the company was going through a transition from paper files to electronic files. During the trial, Farmers' attorney told the jury that Warehime never embraced the new technology and rejected training to become a better employee. When workload backed up on her, he said Warehime "blamed others for her problems."
The employer's attorney further said Farmers had good reason to terminate Warehime: she was low-balling customers on their claims, which led to costly litigation for the company.
Toole, Warehime's attorney, showed the jury evidence that Warehime had been a valued Farmers employee: she did the training requested by Farmers and the company honored her with awards and good to outstanding job-performance ratings each year from 2002 to 2005. "She was a committed team player and good with customer service," he told the jury. Toole said the climate began to change in the summer of 2003 when Warehime learned that one of her Fresno supervisors "wanted to hire his own people." Warehime was given higher caseloads than other employees, and when an employee left the company, she was given those files, too, Toole said. She asked her supervisor to balance the workload, "but nothing happened. No files were reassigned and she continued to drown in these files," Toole told the jury.
Things got worse for her, Toole said, because the Fresno office was filled with young, hip employees, Toole said. Warehime started hearing thing like: "I don't want to work when I'm your age" and "The old fuddy-duddy is coming in." In October 2005, Plaintiff complained to her supervisor that an evaluation of her work was inaccurate and unfair. The supervisor responded by telling her to improve her performance.
The stress became so intense, Warehime suffered a mental breakdown in February 2006, forcing her to take a leave of absence while her doctor treated her from depression and anxiety. Warehime's doctor cleared her to return to work on June 12, 2006. But when she showed up to work, a young man was sitting at her desk, and Plaintiff soon found out that she was fired.
This case involves a common combination of age discrimination and disability discrimination / failure to honor medical leave to which an employee is entitled under ADA/FEHA or FMLA.