Former Lake California General Manager Jessie Liebert recently filed a civil complaint seeking unspecified damages against Lake California Property Owners Association Inc. (LCPOA) and The Hignell Companies for three different actions related to her alleged wrongful termination and on-the-job discrimination in May 2011.
Redding attorney Eric Omstead filed the complaint Aug. 23 on Liebert's behalf in Tehama County Superior Court, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Anderson Valley Post. Liebert is seeking damages for past and future earnings, reimbursement for medical and legal expenses and punitive damages related to her suit for wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination and harassment due to race and/or age, court documents show.
In December 2009, Liebert discovered that between 2004 and 2007, cash paid to and received by LCPOA through fees, assessments and services was not accounted for and never deposited into the LCPOA bank account, her complaint states. Liebert notified the association's board of directors of the discrepancies that same month, and when the board failed to take any action, she then reported the suspected embezzlement to the Tehama County District Attorney around June 18, 2010, which initiated an investigation by the Tehama County Sheriff’s Department, the complaint states.
An initial audit of the association's books revealed that approximately $74,000 had been embezzled from LCPOA from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007, Liebert's complaint states.
Liebert is suing for wrongful termination in violation of public policy alleging “LCPOA, one or more of its Directors, one or more of its corporate Officers, and/or one or more of its managing agents caused and directed the termination of plaintiff's employment in retaliation for plaintiff having reported the embezzlement to law enforcement personnel, and/or to prevent plaintiff from discovering additional embezzlement and reporting it to law enforcement personnel,” the complaint states.
Liebert also believes that the Hignell Companies conspired with LCPOA in terminating her employment for “illegal and tortious reasons,” according to court documents.
Liebert also claims that before she was fired, an opening to fill her position was already posted on Craigslist around November 2010, the document said. Liebert’s employment was terminated May 19. 2011.
That was the date, according to court documents, when “…President of LCPOA Rob Moore arranged to have the locks changed to the LCPOA office before any employees arrived to work. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that, on or about May 18, 2011, Mr. Moore had plaintiff’s LCPOA e-mail account cancelled. Later that day, Hignell’s Senior Manager, Ray Villar, notified plaintiff that he ‘had to’ lay her off from her employment,” court documents state.
About 90 days later, Hignell was no longer acting as property management for Lake California and the LCPOA rehired every other terminated employee except for Liebert, her complaint states.
Liebert states in the document that she was told by at least one member of the Board of Directors to stop her investigation into the embezzlement.
In her complaint, Liebert alleges “…LCPOA, one or more members of its Board of Directors, one or more of its corporate Officers, and/or one or more of its managing agents were concerned that the investigation begun by Tehama County law enforcement after plaintiff reported the embezzlement, as well as future investigations, would embarrass Directors, Officers, managing agents, and/or their friends and/or lead to criminal prosecution of Directors, Officers, managing agents, and/or their friends.”
The third action covers the retaliation Liebert states she was subjected to after pursuing law enforcement to investigate the embezzlement.
“Each defendant, and/or an officer, director, or managing agent of each defendant, authorized or ratified the wrongful conduct. Therefore, plaintiff is entitled to punitive and exemplary damages for each defendant,” the document said.
The third cause of action, discrimination and harassment due to race and/or age, has been filed because of the termination of Liebert’s employment, refusal to pay her the advertised salary equal to her Caucasian predecessor, refusal to rehire her and to provide reasonable raises consistent with job performance, the document said.
The complaint states that Liebert was advertised a yearly salary upon hiring of $50,000 to $60,000 for her position of general manager. However, LCPOA started her at $45,000 a year with a promise to increase it to $50,000 after a 30 day period.
During her entire employment she received a three percent raise to a yearly salary of $51,500, the document said. The prior general manager, who was Caucasian, was paid $60,000 a year.
Liebert also states in the complaint that Hignell’s Senior Manager, Ray Villar, told her to cut her hair.
“As a Native American, it is plaintiff’s cultural right to wear her hair long, which is how she wore her hair when she was hired and how she has worn her hair for at least 50 years. The length of plaintiff’s hair is unrelated to her job duties…,” the complaint states.
The complaint does not seek specific amounts for damages, however Liebert is suing for punitive and exemplary damages from each defendant due to many factors.
A call was received from an attorney representing the LCPOA saying they have no comments at the moment.