Jury Awards $80M to 3 Former Zurich NA Employees for Wrongful Termination

Zurich North America was ordered by a California jury to pay three former employees a total of about $80.2 million to end a wrongful termination case earlier this month.

Melinda Brantley, Nicholas Lardie, and Daniel Koos worked as claims examiners in Zurich’s Rancho Cordova branch but were fired late in 2017 over the use of “off the record” paid time off—utilized by then manager Chris Omen as an employee incentive, according to the Bohm Law Group, who represented the plaintiffs.

During the trial in Sacramenta, California, Omen testified the days, also nicknamed “Omen Days,” were doled to deserving employees with his boss’s knowledge and encouragement since it was “a way to offer better compensation without impacting increasing operational expense,” said information from the Bohm firm. The performance incentive was offered without reducing PTO.

However, soon after Omen was fired over a state audit failure, the practice of “Omen Days” was investigated and Zurich claimed the employees stole time from the company. Given what Zurich supervisors called the “gravity of this offense,” Brantley, Lardie and Koos were terminated.

The jury sided with the former Zurich employees, awarding each of them more than $26 million including $25 million each in punitive damages. Other damages were awarded to each of the plaintiffs for economic harm, non-economic harm, and reputation.

In an emailed statement, Zurich North America said it is “disappointed by the recent jury verdict,” and that the company is “committed to maintaining a culture of fairness, equity and integrity in all our business practices and interactions with employees.”

“We will pursue all available legal options, including appeal,” Zurich said.