(CN) – A Los Angeles social worker was wrongfully fired for complaining about the low staff-to-teen ratio at a center for troubled youth, a California appeals court ruled.
When LaToya Boston started working as a group therapist at Penny Lane Centers, she was told the company maintained a staffing level of one worker for every three clients.
That number grew, as Boston began working with 15 to 18 teenagers a day, some of whom had violent criminal histories.
When Boston complained that she was concerned for her safety, her supervisor told her to “stop whining.”
One day Boston fell to the ground while breaking up a fight and was trampled by the other clients who were leaving the room. Her boss allegedly told her to “toughen up.”
Boston was dismissed from her job and sued for wrongful termination. A jury awarded her $500,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. Justice Epstein upheld the verdict.
The 2nd Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that Boston was not required to exhaust other administrative remedies before suing because she was not fired for complaining about inadequate staffing.
“It is evident the gravamen of Boston’s claim is that she was retaliated against for complaining about an unsafe work environment,” Epstein wrote.