The Los Angeles Superior Court has bestowed some remarkable gifts upon plaintiffs this holiday season. Two juries have issued gigantic verdicts in favor of individual plaintiffs in separate employment lawsuits within the past month.

On November 16, 2023, in Sosa v. Comerica Bank, a jury delivered a verdict of $14.17 million consisting of $1.17 million in lost earnings (past and future) and $13 million in emotional distress damages in a wrongful termination and gender discrimination case. The plaintiff is a former branch manager of a bank who alleged she was fired because she took medical leave to care for her ill husband. Not only did the jury determine that the plaintiff was fired because she took medical leave, but it also found that she was the victim of gender discrimination and that the bank had failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it. The bank, on the other hand, contended that the plaintiff was fired for using her position and power to abuse her subordinate employees, including putting her hands on one of those employees on at least three occasions.

Then, on December 11, 2023, the jury in Gatchalian v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, delivered a blockbuster $41.5 million verdict, which included $2.5 million in lost earnings (past and future), $9 million in emotional distress damages, and $30 million in punitive damages in a whistleblower retaliation case. This plaintiff worked as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit and alleged that she was fired after she raised concerns over patient safety.

Apparently, neither of these employees had signed an enforceable arbitration agreement, which as we have said many times before, remains the only reliable antidote employers have to guard against catastrophes like these — catastrophes that are occurring with ever greater frequency in the trial courts of California.  See, for example, this shocking $464 million verdict we covered in June 2022 from the Los Angeles Superior Court, and our compendium of other “nuclear” verdicts issued by California juries in recent years.

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.

Photo of David Gobel David Gobel

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of Interdisciplinary Law, and part of the executive committee of USC’s Music Law Society. Prior to law school, David worked as a research executive for a marketing research firm in New York.