California State Bar Sued for Wrongful Termination

Emanuel Shirazi

The State Bar of California was recently sued by Sonja Oehler for wrongful termination. Oehler’s is seeking upwards of $15 million in damages, $10 million for financial losses and $ 5 million for emotional distress (which she alleges was an intentional infliction.)

Oehler, a former administrative specialist at the bar, alleges in a formal complaint that she was fired because she knew about the “deceit, deception, incompetence, and falsification of issues” at her place of employment.

Some of the ethical violations that Oehler alleges the bar committed include:

  1. A director at the bar was denied a reimbursement for expenses after flying to San Francisco for a three hour hearing. The bar had previously agreed to pay him.
  2. A board member was denied a reimbursement totaling $30,000 (though it was later paid from state bar funds.)
  3. Several employees were terminated because they were presumed friends of the former director, not because of any particular problem with their work.
  4. The bar’s former director, Joseph Dunn, alleges he was fired because he exposed the bar’s ethical violations. He sued the bar in 2014.
  5. The bar purged a public backlog to make it seem like the chief trial counsel was more productive than she actually was.
  6. The bar refused to prosecute unlicensed lawyers who were preying on immigrants.
  7. The bar dismissed ethics complaints against employees and even failed to open other complaints altogether.

The bar denies the allegations and doesn’t think Oehler’s complaints have any merit.  If she did not complain about any illegal conduct, how can her termination be retaliation?

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