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  1. #1
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Can I sue for extortion?

    In California, can I sue someone for extortion? Or, is an extortion suit always brought on by the State?
  2. #2
    stephenk is offline Senior Member
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    why dont you report the extortion attempt to the police first?
    Cal Naughton, Jr.: I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger.
  3. #3
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    I did. They said it was an issue for civil court.
  4. #4
    stephenk is offline Senior Member
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    then go ahead and sue in civil court. how much money are you talking about? do you have proof of the extortion attempt?
    Cal Naughton, Jr.: I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger.
  5. #5
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Yes. I have proof beyond any reasonable doubt. Let me sidetrack you with some details – it’s work related:

    Under the terms of my written employment contract, my employer owes me $45k in severance. But my employer doesn’t want to pay me, because $45k is a lot of money.

    Instead, they demanded that I enter into a new employment contract – and waive the $45k. They said that if I didn’t enter into the new agreement, they would transfer me to a new office, which is 90 miles away (one-way) from my house. There was no other professional reason for them to demand this transfer, except in retaliation if I did not cooperate and give them my severance.

    In other words, they wanted to obtain my property (my $45k), with my consent (a new employment contract), by inducing force and fear (threatening to transfer me). And that, according to CA Penal Code section 518, is extortion.

    The most damming piece of evidence I have is a thirty-five minute audio recording. I made it during a meeting between myself, the president of the company, and my supervisor. In this recording you can hear them breach and repudiate almost every term of our employment agreement. You can clearly hear them make the threats of extortion, and it establishes their evil “mens rea.”

    From the outside, this whole thing looks like a breach-of-employment-contract case. My most crucial evidence is this secret recording. But they, no doubt, will try to dismiss it as an illegal recording under the wiretapping laws of CA section 631, 632, 632.5, 632.6, and 632.7.

    I need to prove extortion – and I can do that easily, but only if citizens like me are allowed to sue for extortion in civil court. That will give me immunity under CA section 633.5, and allow me to introduce the recording as evidence for the breach-of-contract issues.

    Am I making sense?
  6. #6
    cbg
    cbg is offline Senior Member
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    You are, of course, ignoring the fact that an employer has the right to operate its business, including the right to transfer employees regardless of whether the employee consents?
  7. #7
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Nope. I haven’t ignored that at all.

    The California code says extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, … induced by a wrongful use of FORCE or fear. Their legal right to transfer me does not preclude extortion.

    Black’s Law Dictionary defines FORCE as “to compel by legal requirement.” And that “requirement” is the force they used to extort me. It was wrong for them to exercise their option to transfer me for the sole purpose of making my life a living hell. And my audio recording shows beyond any doubt, that that was their only intention. They wanted to force me to resign with two years left on my contract – and that would be a breach for me.

    If anything, the “right” that you are referring to, helps establish the force element.
    Last edited by Greg Loomis; 10-28-2003 at 02:09 PM.
  8. #8
    stephenk is offline Senior Member
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    did the other people know you were taping the meeting?

    if you are owed severance pay, why are you still working for them? Are you expecting the $45k and still want to work for the company?

    If you are no longer working for them and they owe you the severance pay as part of your written work contract and they refuse to pay you, hire an attorney and sue them for breach of contract.

    your extortion claim would not last long based on the facts you posted.
    Cal Naughton, Jr.: I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger.
  9. #9
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Hey Cbg,

    <<You are, of course, ignoring the fact that an employer has the right to operate its business, including the right to transfer employees regardless of whether the employee consents?>>

    Nope. I haven’t ignored that at all.

    Do you understand that the “consent” I am referring to is the consent to give them my property? We are not talking about the consent to be transferred!

    The “property” is my money. It’s a $45k severance payment that they owe me (the recording clearly shows that there is no disagreement between us on this issue). It is yet unpaid – but it IS my money. And they want to keep it.

    “Obtain” means that they keep my money. They simply don’t pay me, even though we all agree that it is my money, and that I am entitled to it under the terms of our employment contract.

    My employer’s right to operate its business, including the right to transfer me, doesn’t have precedence over the crime of extortion, but I am worried that you might be carrying a popular misconception. So let me explain this.

    Note that the audio recording shows that the decision to transfer me was contingent on my entering into a new employment agreement with them. If I agreed to work for them under new rules (and let them keep my $45k), then I would not be transferred.

    So consider the first condition where I succumbed to their demand: I let them keep my property, and as a result, I am not transferred. In this case the “transfer” in question does not take place. Any laws regarding transferring an employee are irrelevant for a transfer that does not exist.

    Nevertheless, the circumstances surrounding my consent, which allowed them to obtain my property would persist. It would remain a consent induced by a wrongful use of force and fear. And that, of course, is extortion.

    Now consider the second condition where I resist their demand, and as a result, I am transferred.

    How has their original demand changed?

    It’s the same demand regardless of the outcome. Isn’t it?

    An extortionate demand isn’t defined by events that take place after the demand is made. It is defined by the illegal threat contained within. Extortion stands with or without the transfer. They are independent.

    It is wrong (and I submit illegal) for them to demand that I give them $45k in order to avoid being transferred, even if I am not transferred.

    Am I making sense?
  10. #10
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Hi stephenk,

    <<did the other people know you were taping the meeting?>>

    No. But California penal code section 633.5 gives citizens like me, in situations like mine, the right to make such recordings. This law, as I understand it, offers immunity from the strict wiretapping laws of section 631, 632, 632.5, 632.6, and 632.7, when the recording is made for the purpose of obtaining evidence that relates to the commission by another party to the crime of extortion.

    <<if you are owed severance pay, why are you still working for them? Are you expecting the $45k and still want to work for the company?>>

    No. I am not on payroll, I am not being paid, and I am not doing work for them – or anyone. On the recording they said they were ‘letting me go.’ The CA Department of Labor and Standards Enforcement helped me recover my unused vacation pay, but won’t touch anything else. (I told the agent at the DLSE about the recording and she insisted that I would go straight to jail if I ever mentioned it again!)

    My employer’s strategy is efficient breach, and it’s the best choice from their perspective. They are betting that I won’t come after them at all. But they don’t know I have the recording.

    <<If you are no longer working for them and they owe you the severance pay as part of your written work contract and they refuse to pay you, hire an attorney and sue them for breach of contract.>>

    No. The trouble is that I’m going to have a hard time making my case without this recording (the recording is a magnificent noose. It says it all – loud and clear).

    As far as I understand it (maybe I am wrong), I cannot submit this recording as evidence unless my circumstances involve extortion. Else I’m the poor ******* who goes to jail. Honestly – I did record this because I did know they were going to threaten me with extortion (they made same threat before), and I did know my rights.

    <<your extortion claim would not last long based on the facts you posted.>>

    Thanks for your opinion, but damn you. I wonder if I am explaining this in the best possible way. Check out my post above to Cbg.

    California Penal Code sections 518-527 defines extortion, and lists three elements:

    1) Obtaining of property from another.

    2) Obtaining that property with consent of the owner.

    3) Inducing that consent by a wrongful use of force or fear.

    I think maybe the California codes disagree with you.

    1) My employer obtained my property, which was my unpaid severance ($45k), by doing nothing – by not paying me.

    2) My employer demanded my consent by asking me to enter into a new retrocessional employment contract. – One in which I forfeited my unpaid severance check.

    3) My employer tried to induce my consent (in other words, they tried to get me to agree to a new contract) by threatening me with FORCE and FEAR as follows:

    A) They said that they would deny that my severance was due, and FORCE me to take them to court in order to collect it.

    B) They said they would refuse to accept my resignation, and FORCE me to work at a new office ninety miles away.

    C) They made an appeal to FEAR, by threatening me with a counter-suit if I talked with an attorney about this.

    D) They made an appeal to FEAR, by reminding me that civil cases are expensive.

    And once again – I can’t emphasize this enough; everything above can be proven easily, once and for all, to anyone who listens to this recording. It’s so ridiculously clear and condemning that it’s almost a joke.

    Thanks for responding, and please keep those comments coming.

    Am I screwed up about something?
  11. #11
    stephenk is offline Senior Member
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    your definition of FORCE is not the definition used for an extortion claim. Nice try.
    Cal Naughton, Jr.: I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger.
  12. #12
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Care to elaborate?

    Black’s Law Dictionary defines FORCE as “to compel by legal requirement.” I’m having trouble finding the California’s definition. Can anyone give me a link?

    Also, as Cbg was quick to point out, an employer has the right to operate its business, including the right to transfer employees regardless of whether the employee wants to go.

    So, if the boss say’s I’m transferred, then I’m compelled by legal requirement to obey. In other words, if the boss say’s I’m transferred, then I’m FORCED to obey.

    And if I’m FORCED to obey, as the result of my refusal to offer CONSENT, then I can’t see any reason why this isn’t extortion.

    Also, keep in mind that I was under a contract. I couldn’t just quit because I didn’t want to be transferred. If I quit, then I would be breaking the law.
    Last edited by Greg Loomis; 10-28-2003 at 08:27 PM.
  13. #13
    Crazyhorse is offline Member
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    The statute relates to physical force... as in "I'll break your legs" kind of force. I'm sure some gorilla making you give him protection money under threat of physical injury does not qualify as a "legal requirement". Right word, wrong definition for this case.

    Check the legislative history of the statute if you're curious.

    If you told one of your kids "I'm taking away your toys until you brush your teeth", that's not extortion.

    However, if you told them "I'm taking away your toys and until you brush your teeth... and if you don't I'll break your legs", then maybe.
  14. #14
    BB_Wolfe Guest
    Under general accounting rules, the 45K is not yours, it is not earned nor is it due until a qualifying event (your termination) occurs.

    Just to prove my point, go try to attain a secured loan using this 45K as collateral. They'll explain it all to you as well.

    So move the 90 miles, whats your problem.

    And if I can make one other suggestion. Offer them a compromise. Negotiate your immediate termination in exchange for 22K. That one has worked for my clients in the past. If your employer doesn't agree, then you must play by his rules if you want your 45K.
  15. #15
    Greg Loomis is offline Member
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    Thanks Crazyhorse,

    I know what you are saying, but are you sure the definition of Force is limited to "I'll break your legs" type of threats?

    Section 519 defines Fear, but not Force. Why did the framers of go so far as to define Fear, but stop short at Force? If an ironclad definition of Force exists, why wouldn’t the State make it available on their web page? (Like they do for Fear?)

    Further, what about the mens rea of the perpetrator? The recording shows that at least THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE USING FORCE. (excuse shouting) The recording shows that they thought they were extorting me.

    I’m an ordinary guy. How can I check the “legislative history” as you suggest? That seems like a good idea. Is there a web page somewhere?



    Also, thanks BB_Wolfe.

    I do understand general accounting rules (and your underlying point). And I certainly understand your skepticism.

    The qualifying event that you refer to (my termination) occurred. And the 45K is earned and due. It all took place over the course of the 35-minute audio recording.

    On the recording we discuss the terms of our contract, and we agree that all of the conditions have been met that allow me to terminate immediately and collect my severance. (In other words, the recording shows that there is absolutely no disagreement between us on the issue of whether I am allowed to terminate immediately and collect severance. The recording shows 100% agreement by everyone.)

    Further, after we discuss that issue, and after we agree that the conditions have been met, you can clearly hear me take that option. My exact words are, “I take the option to terminate immediately.” Note: The contract also says “immediately.”

    And then, after I announce my own termination, you can clearly hear their response:

    They promise that they will never give my money to me, and that if I press the issue, they will give me a hard time. Then they demand that I report to work “next Monday” at the new location. They never say anything to indicate that they disagree with my right to terminate. Just the opposite: they say many things to let me know that they won’t hesitate to break the law in order to avoid paying me my money.

    I would be interested in hearing more about Fear and Force. Any more thoughts from anyone?

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