The State Worker

Judge’s widow to receive settlement from unemployment board in wrongful death lawsuit

Larry Campell, a state administrative law judge, died in September 2015 amid a dispute with his employer over an order the he drive long distances for work.
Larry Campell, a state administrative law judge, died in September 2015 amid a dispute with his employer over an order the he drive long distances for work. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Campbell

The widow of a 74-year-old California unemployment judge who died of a heart attack after his supervisors changed his job description will receive a $10,000 settlement from a lawsuit she filed alleging workplace stress contributed to his death.

The settlement is the second payment from the state that Bonnie Campbell is receiving from claims she submitted after administrative law judge Larry Campbell’s September 2015 death. She previously received a $150,000 settlement from the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, a state department that awards benefits for workplace-related injuries.

Judge Larry Campbell’s former employer, the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, confirmed the settlement on Thursday. It is scheduled to be approved at a Santa Clara County Superior Court hearing in August.

Campbell had a documented heart condition, and he believed his supervisors were discriminating against because of his age and medical disability in the months before his death, according to his lawsuit.

“This case was not about money,” said Campbell’s attorney, Wynne Herron. “Ms. Campbell was a paid a substantial sum of money through the worker’s compensation system when they determined his death was caused by the work-related dispute concerning his employer’s refusal to accommodate his medical problems. Ms. Campbell felt strongly that the subsequent lawsuit was not about money, but about bringing to light what she thought was a very serious injustice. She (has) accomplished that purpose.”

Campbell had worked at the board’s San Jose office for 13 years. According to former coworkers and his lawsuit, Campbell had guidance from a doctor advising him not to drive long distances because of his heart condition. He commuted to work by bus from his home in Santa Cruz County.

In the summer of 2015, Campbell’s supervisors told him they expected him to drive to Modesto for occasional hearings. If he refused, his supervisor would discipline him by docking hours from a leave bank he had accumulated, according to his lawsuit.

Campbell declined to drive to Modesto. He died a day after he was disciplined, according to the lawsuit.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.

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