A former Fresno bank manager is nearing the end of her fight against her previous employer.
Barbara Barkley believes that Bank of the West fired her in 2014 as retaliation for disagreements with her new manager, whom she said hoped to replace her with a younger, prettier woman. But the bank contends Barkley’s sagging performance and documented refusal to follow company policy led to her dismissal – not her age or complaints against management. Now, a jury will decide whether Barkley’s 42-year banking career ended justly or her former employer owes her possibly millions in damages.
After more than a month of testimony and the presentation of more than 250 pieces of evidence, the two sides rested Wednesday afternoon. Barkley’s lawyer, Stephen Cornwell, said Thursday afternoon would likely be the absolute earliest the jury would return a verdict in such a case.
More than 250 pieces of evidence were presented in the trial.
Cornwell and co-council Todd Barsotti used their final chance to address to jury to hammer branch manager David Garcia, who took over as Barkley’s supervisor in 2013. Prior to his arrival, they said, Barkley had an exemplary record with Bank of the West that stretched back more than a decade.
The duo also represents a handful of tellers joining in Barkley’s lawsuit against the bank, but most of the trial centered around the former customer service manager’s case.
Barkley’s lawyers contended Garcia wanted her gone from day one. He forced her to stay late, impeded her duties and hired a younger, unqualified assistant customer service manager whom he then groomed as her replacement rather than having her help Barkley. He kept a hand-written log of things Barkley did to upset him – the only such record for any employee at the branch, they said.
Damages sought by fired bank manager for lost income and distress: Between $1.5 and $4.5 million.
Cornwell and Barsotti also blamed the bank’s higher-ups, saying the investigation that led to Barkley’s removal was flawed and tainted by conversations with Garcia.
Although the lawsuit seeks unspecified damage, Barkley’s lawyers suggested a price range Monday for their client’s lost income and emotional distress: Between $1.5 and $4.5 million.
Alan Levins, who represented Bank of the West along with co-council Ryan Eddings, used his closing statements to go over banking documents that he said provided ample reasons for Barkley’s removal. Chief among these were records he said showed Barkley forged a count of the vault’s finances when her count was $3,000 short of what it should have been. This offense alone, he added, was grounds for immediate termination under the bank’s policy.
Levins balked at Barkley’s portrayal of Garcia, who he said gave Barkley repeated deadline extensions on mandatory paperwork and did everything he could to help her succeed. He added that Barkley had several other documented lesser infractions, including failing to discipline her employees and cashing checks for customers with a negative account balance.
Because this is a civil case, the burden was on Barkley to prove to the jury she was likely fired due to age, retaliation or both. Barkley does not have to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt, and Bank of the West does not have to prove anything. If the jury sides with Barkley, it must also calculate her damages.