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A Termination Decision Can Indeed Hinge on Appearances

Delivering bad news to clients is never easy, but David Monks from Fisher & Phillips LLP has put together a way to tell potential wrongful termination clients — and more importantly human resource professionals who might be asked about a particular hire or promotion — that it is acceptable to discriminate against potential and current employees based on how they appear. “Employees may be under a false pretense that what they look like shouldn’t matter; only job performance … ,” he wrote recently. “Grooming and personal appearance are playing an ever-increasing role in raise and promotion decisions.” Here is a short list that Monks put together as legitimate reasons to discriminate: piercings, bad breath, visible tattoo(s), wrinkled clothes, messy hair, casual dress, too much perfume or cologne, too much makeup, messy office or cubicle, chewed fingernails, and, the always annoying, too suntanned. Monks advises there needs to be a policy in place and business needs, but that when applied uniformly such discrimination will generally not run afoul of an employee’s rights.

Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel has announced that Roland Achtel, Sandra Brower, Kenneth Jones and Gary Rudolph have been elected shareholders in the firm effective Jan. 1.  All four members were previously of counsel in the firm. Olga Alvarez, an associate with the firm, was also named of counsel. Achtel focuses his practice on estate planning and estate litigation.  Brower practices in eminent domain litigation for both public entities and private owners.  Jones has broad experience in all phases of corporate, real estate, finance, employment and business law.  Rudolph practices in the area of bankruptcy and other insolvency problems, representing trustees, creditors and debtors in commercial bankruptcies.  Alvarez focuses her practice on estate planning, probate, trust administration and elder law.

Estate planning, trust and probate administration attorney Laura M. Lamb joined Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek as of counsel, and Rebecca Van Loon joined as an associate effective Jan. 1. Lamb joins SCMV from the respected estate planning boutique Showley & Thompson, where she worked closely with founder Lon Showley and their clients.  Showley retired at the end of 2011 after 42 years of practice.  She is an adjunct professor of law at California Western.  Van Loon, a 2010 graduate of Willamette University College of Law, joins from the estate planning practice of Ann C. Harris. With these additions, SCMV’s highly regarded estate planning and tax practice now totals 10 attorneys, including Elinor Merideth, Larry Branton, Rhonda Crandall and James Siegel.

James D. Crosby has joined the Klinedinst San Diego law office. Crosby, who is a past president of the North County Bar Association, has nearly 30 years of experience representing individuals and companies in a wide range of general and complex business matters. He is joining the office as a shareholder.

Higgs Fletcher & Mack’s Steven J. Cologne and Rahil Swigart successfully defended a jury trial action in Orange County this past month and obtained a $1,164,129 verdict in a cross-complaint against the plaintiff.  Plaintiff MedIT LLC and defendant Transfusion Medicine Associates, APC (aka TMA) entered into a contract whereby MedIT agreed to provide medical billing services to TMA physicians and TMA agreed to pay MedIT for its services.  After one year, the contractual relationship was terminated.  MedIT filed a complaint against TMA alleging TMA failed to pay for MedIT’s work.  TMA filed a cross-complaint against MedIT alleging MedIT breached the contract and was also negligent in performing below industry standards resulting in large collection losses.  MedIT has filed post-trial motions. Cologne, an equity partner at Higgs Fletcher & Mack since 1999, practices in the area of complex tort and business litigation with a focus on employment litigation and trial of complex contract and business matters. Swigart, a five-year associate, represents and advises businesses in disputes. 

More news at Higgs Fletcher & Mack: it recently announced Gary Barthel’s move from associate to partner.  His selection brings the organization’s current partner total to 44.

Randy C. Frisch is the president and publisher of the San Diego Business Journal. He is licensed to practice law in California, Nevada and Idaho. He can be reached at rfrisch@sdbj.com.

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