Fired for serving on a jury

Law firm accused of firing secretary for serving jury duty

The California Labor Commissioner is suing a prominent workplace-discrimination law firm in Los Angeles, alleging that it fired an employee after she told the firm that she had been called to serve on a jury.

Filed on Tuesday, the lawsuit alleges that Martin & Martin fired receptionist Marla Osorio on the day that she told the firm that she had been impaneled to serve on a state court jury. The suit alleges that the law firm violated state labor laws prohibiting unlawful retaliation.

Martin & Martin managing partner Areva Martin is a labor and employment plaintiffs' attorney, who has made numerous televison appearances on such shows as Anderson Cooper 360 and The Dr. Phil Show to discuss employment and disability discrimination issues. According to its website, the firm has eight attorneys.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Ms. Martin said that she had not seen the lawsuit and was unable to comment.

According to the complaint, Osorio was summoned for jury duty in April 2006 but was directed by the law firm's human resources manager to try and postpone it. The court rescheduled her service for June, when Osorio was selected as part of a panel and told to return in July. When Osorio explained to the law firm manager that she had to go back in July, she was fired, the commissioner asserts.

Attached to Tuesday's lawsuit is a 2009 determination by the California Department of Industrial Relations, which found that the law firm had violated state labor laws. It directed the firm to reinstate Osorio to her position and to reimburse her for lost pay.

Martin & Martin appealed the determination, according to Tuesday's lawsuit, and lost that appeal in June. The firm has not complied with the department's determination, the complaint states.

Representing the labor commissioner is attorney David Balter, with the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The case is Labor Commissioner v. Martin & Martin, No. BC 476695, Los Angeles Superior Court, Central District.

For the Labor Commissioner: David Balter, California Department of Industrial Relations, San Francisco.

For the firm: Not immediately available.

(Published by Reuters - January 12, 2012)

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