$1.35 Million Verdict: Wrongful Termination
LOS ANGELES DAILY JOURNAL: VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS
This article about Attorney David H. Greenberg & the $1.35 Million verdict, is entitled: INTOLERANCE LESSON
Published December 8, 2000.
By Leonard Novarro.
Another company learned a lesson in racial intolerance after attorneys David H. Greenberg (right) and Jeffrey Pasternak (left) of the Law Offices of David H. Greenberg in Beverly Hills brought a "wrongful termination" claim against ENPC Techonology in Rowlalnd Heights, a subsidiary of Enlight, a large Taiwanese company that manufactures computer components.
The attorneys in Linus Lee v. ENPC Techonology BC196250 (L.A. Superior Court 2000), claimed that their client was fired by the company after he refused to replace American employees with Chinese workers.
A trial, beginning July 28 before Judge Mel Red Recana, ended with a jury agreeeing with the plaintiff. Linus Lee, 43, on his claims of "retaliation", "wrongful termination", "breach of implied contract" and "breach of covenant of good faith" and awarding him $1,359,262 in punitive damages. The verdict was unanimous after a little more than a day of deliberations.
Defense counsel have not indicated whether they plan to appeal the decision. Albert Chang of the Law Offices of Albert J.C. Chang in La Puente did not return phone calls.
Lee came to Greenberg in 1998 after coming across his Web site DiscriminationAttorney.com, which deals with employment law and various forms of discrimination. According to his claim. Enlight hired Lee, a naturalized citizen, as its chief executive officer to oversee manufacturing operations of a new subsidiary here. He also told officials he had ideas for some new software, and they agreed to have him develop them.
Then, in 1997, at a meeting of company officials in Las Vegas, Lee was told by officers of the corporation that he had to hire an individual from Taiwan to head the East Coast office. Lee told Peter Chen, ENPC president, and Lee Liao, chairman of the board, that he had a qualified non-Asian employee filling the job.
Whereupon, he claims, Chen told Lee, "Chinese should hire Chinese."
When he refused to do so, after returning to California Chen took over the hiring. The company also dropped Lee's software proposal and eventually released him, he says.
During the trial, company officials said he "terminated" meaning that he left of his own accord. "They said it was mutual," Greenberg says.
But after they dropped Lee's software proposal, Greenberg adds "it was clear, in essence, what they were saying to him."
The trial ultimately boiled down to one phrase: "the Chinese way."
According to Greenberg, Chen repeatedly used that phrase in describing how things were done at the plant. However, under cross-examination by Greenberg, he denied ever using the phrase.
Whereupon, Greenberg introduced pretrial interrogatories, in which Chen referred to Lee's departure as a dismissal. Under further questionaing by Greenberg, Chen said it was "the Chinese way" to allow an employee to resign so that they don't "lose face" from being fired.
"This is where the jury finally put the nail in the coffin," Greenberg says. "He said that on the stand, in front of the jury, at the end of the day. That was the end of the defense's case."