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Alexander has been a successful plaintiffs-side employment lawyer for one simple reason: He never underestimates an employee's value.

"Some employers go to trial because they don't understand that value and some settle because they do," said Alexander, a founding partner at Alexander Krakow & Glick LLP. "Our goal is to make them see that value."

That certainly was the case when plaintiff Daryl Kunga sued American Guard Services Inc. after the company fired him for leaving his job to tend to his hospitalized daughter.

Kunga, who was making less than $20 an hour, requested he leave his job after learning his teenage daughter had been taken to the emergency room. He had to wait for another guard to replace him then take 3 buses to get to the hospital, Alexander said.

Later, the company categorized Kunga's leave as "job abandonment" and never brought him back to work. Alexander represented Kunga, claiming his leave was protected under the California Family Rights Act. Kunga v. American Guard Services Inc, BC657320 (L.A. Super. Ct., filed Apr. 11, 2017).

"They refused to give him what he was entitled to," Alexander said. "They played games with him."

Alexander offered to settle the case for $750,000, which American Guard Services turned down. He took them to trial, where a jury awarded Kunga $2 million in damages and hit American Guard with $1 million in punitive damages last July.

They don't think low-wage earners are going to find lawyers who are going to take the case," Alexander said. "And it is because they undervalue the emotional distress of the employee."

It's a lesson Alexander not only hopes employers take seriously, but also one he wants to instill in younger attorneys. A former chair of the California Employment Lawyers Association, Alexander created the organization's annual trial college to teach and mentor attorneys interested in representing low-wage earners in discrimination matters.

He has trained more than 250 attorneys since the program started in 2014.

Alexander admits "it's a slow approach to achieving that thought process" that employers should not mistreat their low-wage earners. And for those who don't get the message, he's ready to take the case.

And, Alexander adds, "I have a reputation."

- Glenn Jeffers

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