Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. September 2014, Volume 28 No. 5

Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co.: Employer’s Perspective

By Arnold J. Wolf

Arnold Wolf is a principal of the Freeman Firm, which focuses on high stakes litigation and deal making, and has offices in Stockton, Sacramento, and Davis. Mr. Wolf is a 1971 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania law school. He has tried more than 100 cases to verdict and has argued approximately 50 cases before federal and state appellate courts. Mr. Wolf and his firm represented Sierra Chemical Co. in the litigation.

Introduction

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co. saga is that it actually evolved into a dispute within the judicial system, let alone a case that generated a published opinion by the Third District Court of Appeal and a reversal by the Supreme Court of California. Mr. Salas, an employee working on Sierra Chemical’s production line, alleged in his original complaint that Sierra Chemical had wrongfully terminated his employment because he filed a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, on the termination date alleged in Salas’s complaint, he was actually working for the company on modified duty to accommodate a back injury that he reportedly suffered on the job. Salas’s amended complaint alleged that Sierra Chemical failed to accommodate him and had discharged him in retaliation for filing a worker’s compensation claim against the company. For reasons that do not appear in the record, Salas never contacted Sierra Chemical to demand that the company accommodate his injury. Given the fact that Sierra Chemical had previously modified Salas’s work on two separate occasions to accommodate his alleged injury, such a request could have nipped this imbroglio in the bud.

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