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Another Gargantuan California Verdict… This Time for $18.6 Million

A San Diego jury awarded that amount to a former employee who claimed he was wrongfully terminated based on his arrest record and then defamed.

Michael Tilkey worked for Allstate Insurance for 30 years and was fired from his job as a field sales leader after he admitted to Allstate that he was arrested for domestic violence against his then-girlfriend.  Although Tilkey was not convicted of the charges, the company investigated the matter and concluded that Tilkey violated its policy against physical harm or violence and terminated his employment.

Tilkey filed suit in San Diego Superior Court, claiming, among other things, that Allstate impermissibly considered his arrest record when deciding to terminate his employment and that he was forced to defame himself when telling prospective employers about the reason he was terminated – a so-called “self-published defamation” claim.  He additionally sought damages for lost past and future wages, emotional distress, and reputational harm.

After a week-long trial, a jury sided with Tilkey and awarded him nearly $2.7 million in compensatory damages, consisting of approximately $960,000 for wrongful termination and $1.7 million for defamation.

The jury then awarded Tilkey an additional $16 million in punitive damages, for a total verdict exceeding $18.6 million.

Not to sound like a broken record—but arbitration agreements, anyone?

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP.


About this Author

Anthony J Oncidi, Employment Attorney, Proskauer Rose Law Firm

Anthony J. Oncidi heads the Labor & Employment Law Group in the Los Angeles office. Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection....

Elaine Lee, Proskauer Law Firm, Labor and Employment Attorney

Elaine Lee is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Her practice focuses on representing and counseling management on all aspects of employment law.

Elaine’s litigation work includes defending employers and supervisors against single-plaintiff claims for unlawful discrimination, harassment, whistleblowing, retaliation, and wrongful termination, as well as class action wage and hour disputes. In addition, Elaine advises clients on compliance with state and federal employment laws and develops company policies ranging from hiring to firing and everything in between. She counsels clients from a wide variety of industries, including telecommunications, entertainment, retail, health care and finance.

Prior to attending law school, Elaine was a Certified Public Accountant and worked at a Big Four accounting firm for four years.