Ellis Law Group Partners Theresa
LaVoie and Mark
Ellis successfully defended the Western Placer Unified School
District before the California Third District Court of Appeals against
an employee, Richard Thornbrough, who claimed he had been wrongfully
terminated for among other things, First Amendment protected speech. The
case, Thornbrough v. Western Placer Unified School District, also
involved claims the hearing officer who heard the termination hearing
was biased,as well as other supposed violations of due process. The
Third District Court of Appeal in a January 2014 decision rejected all
of Thornbrough's contentions and held in favor of WPUSD on all issues.
Thornbrough, a former Assistant Director of Maintenance, based his
wrongful termination claim on the fact that he and the District's
Director of Maintenance had reported suspected wrongdoing in connection
with certain District construction projects. Reports of their suspicions
were submitted to the District's Board of Trustees, and the Grand Jury.
WPUSD contended Thornbrough's termination has nothing to do with his
reports but rather for several incidents of misconduct, which included:
repeated insubordination, denigration of his female supervisor, ethnic
derision of a subordinate, sexual harassment of a district employee,
retaliation against the sexually harassed employee for reporting the
harassment, and downloading pornographic content onto a District
The appellate court rejected the plaintiff's arguments that the hearing
officer was biased and that during the hearing Thornbrough was denied
Due Process because, among other allegations, he was given insufficient
time to respond to amended charges.
In the opinion, the court found that the District had more than
sufficient grounds for terminating Thornbrough and the court went on to
reject Thornbrough's retaliation claim as well. Ellis and LaVoie also
successfully tried the underlying wrongful termination (Skelly) hearing
on behalf of the WPUSD from which the appeal arose.
For more information, contact Theresa LaVoie or Mark Ellis at (916)
283-8820. Or see the firm's website: http://www.ellislawgrp.com.
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