After a contentious four-week-long jury trial conducted by lead trial counsel Steven Benjamin and supported by partner Wendy Benjamin, a Sacramento jury today returned a unanimous defense verdict.  The jury rejected plaintiff’s pregnancy discrimination and overtime pay claims swiftly, taking only four hours to deliberate.

Facts & Allegations

On March 23, 2009, plaintiff was hired by the firm’s client, a company that finds public insurance for uninsured patients. After three months, plaintiff was promoted to the position of district eligibility team lead and was re-classified from non-exempt (hourly) to exempt (salary).  Plaintiff notified the firm’s client that she was pregnant and began her pregnancy disability leave on November 30, 2009, scheduled to end on March 22, 2010.  On March 8, 2010, Plaintiff requested an additional week of leave to find childcare.  She claimed that the firm’s client denied her request, that the company was too busy and she was needed back at work.  When she returned from her leave on March 22, 2010, the firm’s client informed her that her position had been eliminated for financial reasons.

Plaintiff brought suit against the firm’s client for denial of reinstatement following pregnancy leave; discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and gender; retaliation on basis of requesting or taking pregnancy leave; wrongful termination; unfair competition; overtime; denial of meal and rest periods; waiting time penalties and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The firm’s client denied any discrimination and contended that Plaintiff was terminated due to financial problems and because the company could not afford her position any longer.  The company further argued that Plaintiff was an exempt employee, and even if she was misclassified as non-exempt, she could not prove that she worked overtime hours.

Plaintiff claimed emotional distress from the termination and difficulty finding subsequent employment.  Plaintiff sought recovery of $570,000: $500,000 in emotional distress, $65,000 in back pay and the remainder for overtime pay at one hour per week for 24 weeks, plus waiting time penalties.

Defense counsel debunked Plaintiff’s theory that the company was loaded with cash by presenting the jury with irrefutable bank statements confirming the firm’s client was experiencing the financial problems previously disclosed to Plaintiff at the time of her termination.

Plaintiff testified that she experienced normal ups and downs in her marriage. Defense was dubious that her emotional distress was caused solely by her loss of employment.  Plaintiff was caught misleading the jury regarding her ‘normal’ marriage when lead defense counsel presented certified court documents in which Plaintiff sought a domestic violence restraining order against her husband, amongst other instances of documented problems in the marriage.


The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Gardener Group on all of plaintiff’s claims. The jury also found in favor of Plaintiff on defendant’s cross-complaint.