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HBO may remain in wrongful termination case

A former American Humane Association film and television unit director of production has sued for wrongful termination. Her complaint alleges that, after 13 years of employment, the AHA fired her for investigating and exposing mistreatment of horses in the television series "Luck" filmed at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. The complaint included the HBO television network and the producer of the series as defendants for allegedly colluding with the AHA in concealing the mistreatment.

HBO and the producer moved to dismiss the allegations against them, arguing that California law recognizes no such cause of action without actual involvement in the termination. The AHA, they argued, is the sole defendant against which the plaintiff could have a case. The entertainment defendants prevailed at first when the presiding judge said that she would dismiss the aiding and abetting claims.

Then the plaintiff argued that her claims are viable even though HBO and the producer were not her employers. After hearing the details of her argument, the judge took the issue under advisement and ruled later in the day that the plaintiff could amend her complaint to allege additional facts for the claims. AHA, which did not participate in the argument, denies any wrongful termination liability.

The plaintiff alleges that the horses on the set were often drugged and the production used many sick and underweight animals. If the woman can prove that her claims regarding the conditions of the animals were what caused her termination, she may be able to gain compensation for her lost wages.

There are times when doing the right thing can lead to employment termination. When workers in New York are terminated as retaliation for reporting an employer's violation of the law, an attorney may be able to help them to prove wrongful dismissal in a lawsuit.

Source: Arcadia Patch, "Woman Who Alleged Horse Abuse in 'Luck' Filming Given Another Day in Court", Nathan McIntire, July 11, 2013

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