Total Articles: 36
Shaw Valenza LLP • July 21, 2015
The Courts of Appeal have held that an employee's requesting reasonable accommodation is not a "protected activity" for which a retaliation claim will lie under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. (See, for example, Rope v. Auto-Chlor, discussed here). That is because protected activity was (previously) defined as "opposing" some unlawful practice, or participation in an investigation or proceeding involving FEHA-based claims. A request for accommodation is not "opposing" an unlawful practice, so it did not fall within the previous definition.
Fisher & Phillips LLP • July 21, 2015
On July 16, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law AB 987, amending the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to reflect what many already believed to be the law: employers and other covered entities cannot retaliate against employees or other persons who request a religious accommodation or an accommodation for a disability. Effective on January 1, 2016, AB 987 establishes that requesting such an accommodation is a protected activity under the FEHA, regardless of whether the accommodation is granted.
Jackson Lewis P.C. • July 21, 2015
On July 16, 2015, AB 987 was signed into law by the Governor Jerry Brown which provides a paradigm shift in favor of employees with respect to their retaliation claims. The new law overturns the retaliation holding in Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 635, and makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against a person for “requesting” an accommodation based on religion or disability.
Shaw Valenza LLP • March 02, 2015
The Ninth Circuit reversed summary judgment in a disability discrimination case alleged under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. We can't even say what the facts are, because the court does not recite them.
Ogletree Deakins • February 02, 2015
California Supreme Court Lets Arbitration Award Stand, Dodges “Honest Belief” Defense; The Price is Wrong: California Court OKs a New Trial in Game Show Model’s Pregnancy Bias Case; Employer May Obtain Judicial Review of California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board Decision; Exotic Dancers’ Class Action Employment Suit Stays Alive in California; California School Teacher’s Claim That She Was Fired Due to a Computer Error Proceeds.
Shaw Valenza LLP • November 17, 2014
The California Fair Employment and Housing Council is considering proposed amendments to the regulations interpreting the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The draft regulations are posted at www.dfeh.ca.gov.FEHCouncil.htm. They reflect recent amendments to the FEHA itself and changes based on case law developments and accepted “best practices.” The following summarizes the most significant proposals.
FordHarrison LLP • October 22, 2014
Executive Summary: On September 10, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (HWHFA), which provides nearly all employees working in California with paid sick leave. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015.
Fisher & Phillips LLP • July 03, 2014
On June 26, 2014, the California Supreme Court decided that an employee may proceed with a discrimination lawsuit even though he presented false work authorization documents to obtain employment in the first place.
Shaw Valenza LLP • June 02, 2014
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEO”) reports that the number of claims alleging unlawful retaliation has skyrocketed since 1997, from 22.7% to 41.1% of all claims filed. Retaliation is currently the most common basis for complaints filed with the agency, outdistancing both race (35.3%) and sex (29.5%) discrimination.
Shaw Valenza LLP • May 29, 2014
This case illustrates the benefit of a good internal complaint procedure. Employers may rely on effective "grievance" or "open door" policies to reduce potential liability, particularly when employees rush to court without first relying on them.
Shaw Valenza LLP • March 21, 2014
The employment relationship is contractual (e.g., I'll work for you and you will pay me). Statutes of limitations generally can be shortened by contract, even in California. Now forget all of these general rules. An agreement shortening the California Fair Employment and Housing Act's statute of limitations is void, said the Court of Appeal in Ellis v. U.S. Security Associates.
Ogletree Deakins • January 24, 2014
In October 2013, California enacted several new laws that provide California workers, who are seeking to change their personal information, engage in whistleblower activity, or exercise their workplace rights, with expanded protections against adverse employment actions, including specific protections for foreign national employees. The new legislation became effective on January 1, 2014. Some of the relevant provisions are summarized below.
Shaw Valenza LLP • January 16, 2014
Mendoza was a long-term nurse for Western Medical Center - Santa Ana. His performance had been excellent. Mendoza claimed his new boss was harassing him. Erdmann, the boss, claimed that Mendoza was sexually inappropriate to him. The employer investigated and determined that both employees engaged in misconduct. The employer fired both of them.
Ogletree Deakins • December 17, 2013
Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc., No. B242003 (October 16, 2013): Recently, a California Court of Appeal held that a fired employee could proceed with a lawsuit in which he claimed that his employer discriminated against him based on his association with his disabled sister to whom he planned to donate a kidney.
Ogletree Deakins • October 28, 2013
Alamo v. Practice Management Information Corp., No. B230909 (September 5, 2013): In Alamo, a former employee who was fired upon her return from maternity leave brought a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. After the trial judge partially granted and partially denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment, the case was heard by a jury. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the employee and awarded her damages in the amount of $10,000. The trial judge then awarded attorneys’ fees and costs to Alamo as the prevailing plaintiff under FEHA.
Shaw Valenza LLP • September 09, 2013
Alamo worked for a small company called PMIC as a collections clerk. She took pregnancy leave. PMIC hired a pregnant temp to replace her during the leave. The temp, named Moran, intended to stop working once Alamo returned.
Ogletree Deakins • September 05, 2013
This past February, the California Supreme Court addressed the viability of a mixed-motive defense to employment discrimination claims brought under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in the Harris v. City of Santa Monica case. The court held that where an employee demonstrates the employer’s adverse action was substantially motivated by discrimination but the employer demonstrates the employee would have been discharged even in the absence of any discriminatory intent, then a court cannot award back pay, damages, or reinstatement. However, where the unlawful discrimination was a “substantial factor” in the employment decision, the court held that the employee may be entitled to other remedies in the form of declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs. For a detailed analysis on the Harris case, see our article, “California Supreme Court Rejects Damages, Back Pay, and Reinstatement Where Employer Proves Legitimate Mixed-Motive.”
Ogletree Deakins • August 26, 2013
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a decision in Urbino v. Orkin Services of California, Inc., No. 11-56944 (August 13, 2013) holding that civil penalties available under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) may not be aggregated to establish the minimum amount in controversy of $75,000, which is required for federal diversity jurisdiction.
Shaw Valenza LLP • July 22, 2013
When an employee files a series of discrimination charges with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, may she wait to sue until years later, even if she received "right to sue" letters long before she filed her lawsuit? No.
Shaw Valenza LLP • March 08, 2013
The plaintiff in a civil lawsuit has to prove his or her case by a “preponderance” of the evidence. That standard means the fact finder (often a jury) believes it is more likely than not that the plaintiff was wronged. In discrimination cases under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the plaintiff has to prove it is more likely than not that an illegal reason was the employer’s motivation for taking negative action (e.g., discharge). What if some evidence shows the employer acted for lawful reasons, but there is also evidence of an illegal motive? Can the employer be held liable if there is 50.1% likelihood that one illegal reason existed, even though there was evidence the employer would have taken action regardless? In Harris v. City of Santa Monica, the California Supreme Court decided these issues surrounding the plaintiff’s and defendant’s burdens of proof in so-called “mixed motive” cases.
Shaw Valenza LLP • March 05, 2013
An employer’s failure to take steps to prevent discrimination, harassment, or retaliation may lead to liability under the Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 or its California counterpart, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Every employer as part of an effective prevention program should implement a complaint procedure that allows employees to report perceived mistreatment to management. An employer should also promptly investigate any reported mistreatment.
FordHarrison LLP • February 14, 2013
Executive Summary: According to a new California Supreme Court opinion, once an employee claiming discrimination demonstrates that a discriminatory reason for his or her termination substantially motivated an adverse employment decision, the employer is entitled to show that a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason would have led it to make the same decision. If the employer is able to demonstrate that, notwithstanding any discriminatory reason for the decision, it was actually motivated by a non-discriminatory reason, the employee is not entitled to monetary damages, back pay or reinstatement, but may still be entitled to an injunction or an award of attorneys' fees and costs.
Fisher & Phillips LLP • February 12, 2013
On February 7, 2013 the California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed that backpay and reinstatement are not available remedies for a plaintiff under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) when an employer has proved by a preponderance of evidence that it would have made the same decision to terminate that individual for lawful reasons. The legal impact of the much-anticipated decision is far reaching. Wynona Harris v. City of Santa Monica.
Shaw Valenza LLP • February 08, 2013
Here is a long awaited and unanimous (6-0 with Baxter recused) ruling from the California Supreme Court:
Ogletree Deakins • February 08, 2013
On February 7, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision on whether the “mixed-motive” defense applies to employment discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The court held that where an employee demonstrates that unlawful discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in a challenged adverse employment action, and the employer proves that it would have made the same decision absent such discrimination, a court may not award damages, back pay, or reinstatement. Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S181004, California Supreme Court (February 7, 2013).
Shaw Valenza LLP • August 20, 2012
The Fair Employment and Housing Commission has issued nearly almost final regulations regarding disability discrimination and regarding pregnancy disability leave.
Shaw Valenza LLP • July 02, 2012
The California Governor just signed SB 1038. This bill, among many other things, eliminates the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, and transfers its duties to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The Commission was the agency that developed regulations and acted as the judicial body that heard claims of discrimination brought before the agency instead of court. Those duties will be handled by the Department internally now. Claims for damages currently before the Commission involving emotional distress will be heard in court rather than before the Commission. Other claims may be heard before an administrative law judge rather than the Commission.
Ogletree Deakins • January 26, 2012
Earlier this week, a state appellate court held that an employee failed to introduce substantial evidence under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that his employerâ€™s decision to terminate his employment was motivated by retaliatory animus. According to the California Court of Appeal, the employee, who was fired for allegedly making false statements related to his sexual harassment complaint against his supervisor, could not show that his employerâ€™s stated reason for firing him was pretextual. Joaquin v. City of Los Angeles, No. B226685, California Court of Appeal (January 23, 2012).
Shaw Valenza LLP • October 17, 2011
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has just issued its first set of procedural regulations, available at http://tinyurl.com/DFEH-Regulations, and codified at 2 Cal. Code Regs. Â§ 10000 et seq. The new rules will govern how the agency accepts and processes complaints of unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Unruh Civil Rights Act, Ralph Act and the Disabled Persons Act.
Ogletree Deakins • August 16, 2010
On August 5, the California Supreme Court handed down its decision in Reid v. Google, Inc., an age discrimination case that was dismissed at the trial court level on summary judgment. The trial judge dismissed the case after finding that “stray remarks” by individuals who had no involvement with the decision to terminate the plaintiff’s employment were insufficient evidence of discrimination to send the case to trial. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial judge’s order granting the employer summary judgment and held that the stray remarks by the non-decision makers was admissible to prove his claim of discrimination. The California Supreme Court agreed and rejected the strict application of the “stray remarks doctrine” in California discrimination cases.
Shaw Valenza LLP • February 12, 2010
The plaintiff in an employment discrimination case must establish a link between the plaintiff's protected classification (e.g., race, sex, etc.) and adverse action (e.g., discharge, demotion, etc.). The opinions construing the Fair Employment and Housing Act say the plaintiff merely must show that unlawful discrimination was "a motivating factor" behind the allegedly discriminatory decision. The burden is not onerous. "A motivating factor" means illegal discrimination was just one reason behind the decision, even if other motivating reasons were perfectly legal.
Shaw Valenza LLP • June 19, 2009
The California Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Johnson v. United Cerebral Palsy/Spastic Children’s Foundation of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties may change the way courts rule on evidence in discrimination cases. The court found admissible as proof of discrimination other employees’ testimony about discrimination against them. Such “me too” evidence therefore may be admissible to bootstrap the plaintiff’s own claim.
Shaw Valenza LLP • January 02, 2009
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires an employee to file an administrative complaint of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation within one year of the alleged unlawful employment practice. This statute of limitations provides employees with time to assert their claims. It also protects employers from stale claims, faded memories, and unavailable witnesses, and makes it easier for the administrative agency involved (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)) to investigate, obtain documents, find witnesses, etc.
Shaw Valenza LLP • July 07, 2008
The courts have issued a significant number of retaliation decisions in the past several weeks. The U.S. Supreme Court held in two cases that employees are protected from adverse employment actions for complaining about civil rights violations, even when the underlying statutes did not contain anti-retaliation provisions. Two panels of the California Court of Appeal went in different directions regarding what constitutes “retaliation.”
Shaw Valenza LLP • March 12, 2008
The California Supreme Court continued a trend on Monday, March 3, 2008, when it held in Jones v. The Lodge at Torrey Pines that supervisors cannot be held individually liable for retaliation under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Court has consistently shielded individual supervisors from various other forms of employment related claims. For example, the Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. Bement, a 2005 decision, that individual corporate agents, including officers, directors, and shareholders, could not be personally liable for an employer’s failure to pay wages to its employees. Similarly, in 2000, the Court held in Carrisales v. Department of Corrections that individual, non-supervisory employees could not be held liable for harassment.
Ogletree Deakins • March 04, 2008
In Reno v. Baird, the California Supreme Court held in 1998 that individuals are not personally liable for discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Similarly, today the Court ruled in Jones v. The Lodge at Torrey Pines Partnership that while employers may be held liable, individuals may not be held financially responsible for retaliation claims in the discrimination context.