Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Plaintiff Nancy Ortiz sued her former employer and former supervisor, Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) and Doreen Alvarez (collectively defendants), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to harassment based on her national origin (Filipino) and age (over 40) at the hands of Alvarez, and that Dameron failed to take action to prevent it in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Ortiz claimed she was forced to resign due to the intolerable working conditions created by Alvarez in order to accomplish Alvarez’s goal of getting rid of older, Filipino employees, like Ortiz, who, in Alvarez’s words, “could not speak English,” had “been there too long,” and “ma[d]e too much money.” Defendants moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that Ortiz could not make a prima facie showing of discrimination because she could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action, and could not make a prima facie showing of harassment because she cannot show that any of the complained of conduct was based on her national origin or age. The trial court determined that the remaining causes of action as well as the claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages were derivative of the discrimination and harassment causes of action and thus had no merit. Ortiz appealed, contending there were triable issues of material fact as to each of her causes of action, except retaliation, and her claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages. The Court of Appeal agreed in part, and reversed judgment. The trial court was directed to vacate its order granting summary judgment, and to enter a new order granting summary adjudication of Ortiz’s retaliation cause of action and request for punitive damages as to Dameron but denying summary adjudication of her discrimination, harassment, and failure to take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment causes of action, her claim for injunctive relief, and her request for punitive damages as to Alvarez. View "Ortiz v. Dameron Hospital Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Shirley Galvan sued her former employer and former supervisor, Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) and Doreen Alvarez (collectively defendants), alleging that she was discriminated against and subjected to harassment based on her national origin (Filipino) and age (over 40) at the hands of Alvarez, and that Dameron failed to take action to prevent it in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA). Galvan claimed she was forced to resign due to the intolerable working conditions created by Alvarez in order to accomplish Alvarez’s goal of getting rid of older, Filipino employees, like Galvan, who, in Alvarez’s words, “could not speak English,” had “been there too long,” and “ma[d]e too much money.” Defendants moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative summary adjudication. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that Galvan could not make a prima facie showing of discrimination because she could not show that she suffered an adverse employment action, and could not make a prima facie showing of harassment because she cannot show that any of the complained of conduct was based on her national origin or age. The trial court determined that the remaining causes of action as well as the claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages were derivative of the discrimination and harassment causes of action and thus had no merit. Galvan appealed, contending there were triable issues of material fact as to each of her causes of action, except retaliation, and her claims for injunctive relief and punitive damages. The Court of Appeal agreed in part, and reversed judgment. The trial court was directed to vacate its order granting summary judgment, and to enter a new order granting summary adjudication of Galvan's retaliation cause of action and request for punitive damages as to Dameron, but denying summary adjudication of her discrimination, harassment, and failure to take necessary steps to prevent discrimination and harassment causes of action, her claim for injunctive relief, and her request for punitive damages as to Alvarez. View "Galvan v. Dameron Hospital Assn." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Wendell Brown sued his employer, the City of Sacramento (City), for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). A jury returned a verdict in Brown’s favor. The City moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial. The trial court granted the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in part, finding that Brown failed to exhaust administrative remedies with respect to some of the acts found to be retaliatory. The trial court denied the motion with respect to other acts and effectively denied the motion for a new trial. The City appealed that part of the trial court's order partially denying the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing the remaining retaliation and discrimination claims were time-barred and barred for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The City also appealed that part of the order partially denying the motion for a new trial, arguing that juror misconduct deprived the City of a fair trial, and the trial court prejudicially erred in admitting evidence of the purportedly unexhausted and time-barred claims. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Brown v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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Inspectors filed a putative class action alleging that they were entitled to, but deprived of minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, reimbursement of expenses, and accurate wage statements. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of certification and held that, under the analytic framework promulgated by Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, and Duran v. U.S. Bank National Assn. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 1, the trial court acted within its discretion in denying certification. In this case, the inspectors' trial plan was inadequate and unfair, because litigation of individual issues, including those arising from affirmative defenses, could not be managed fairly and efficiently using only an anonymous survey of all class members. For example, an employer's liability for failure to provide overtime or rest breaks will depend on the employees' individual circumstances. View "McCleery v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether section 2802 of the California Labor Code required an employer to reimburse its employees for the cost of slip-resistant shoes as “necessary expenditures . . . incurred by the employee[s] in direct consequence of the discharge of [their] duties.” Plaintiff Krista Townley appealed after the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. (BJ’s) on her sole cause of action under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, which sought civil penalties on behalf of herself and other “aggrieved employees” for Labor Code violations. Townley worked at a BJ’s restaurant in Stockton, California as a server. To avoid slip and fall accidents, BJ’s adopted a safety policy that required all hourly restaurant employees to wear black, slip-resistant, close-toed shoes. The policy did not require employees to purchase a specific brand, style, or design of shoes. Nor did the policy prohibit employees from wearing their shoes outside of work. During her employment with BJ’s, Townley purchased a pair of canvas shoes that complied with BJ’s policy but was not reimbursed for the cost of the shoes, which was consistent with BJ’s policy and practice. Because the Court of Appeal concluded the statute did not impose such a requirement, it affirmed judgment. View "Townley v. BJ's Restaurants, Inc." on Justia Law

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After 14 years of employment, Clare Byrd received a Notice of Pending Dismissal from her position as Administrative Analyst/Specialist at San Diego State University (SDSU), part of the California State University (CSU) system. In December 2014, SDSU provided Byrd with a Notice which stated that she was dismissed from her employment effective December 15. Byrd then filed a Service Retirement Election Application with CalPERS, with a retirement date of December 31, 2014. CalPERS accepted her application and proposed effective retirement date. Byrd appealed after she was denied by a trial court for writ of mandate and declaratory judgment, asking the court to intervene following the breakdown of a settlement agreement between her and CSU, which the State Personnel Board (SPB) initially approved. But following a refusal to comply with material terms of the settlement by CalPERS, SPB changed its position and rejected the settlement in a decision vacating its prior approval. Among other provisions, the settlement agreement directed that Byrd would be reinstated to a classification with a significantly higher salary, which she had never held, and that she would receive compensation at the higher salary during the period that CSU, with her assistance, would apply for medical retirement benefits. Byrd requested that the trial court compel CalPERS to process her reinstatement at the higher salary level. CalPERS maintained it was unable to do so because Government Code section 21198 only authorized Byrd's reinstatement to a job classification she previously held before her termination. The trial court agreed with CalPERS and denied Byrd's petition. On appeal, Byrd argued section 21198 allowed CalPERS to reinstate Byrd to employment as a straightforward matter and did not require reinstatement to the same specific classification or pay rate. She emphasized that the bargained-for terms of the settlement agreement contemplated a scenario in which Byrd would return to work, at least for a short period, while her application for medical retirement benefits was processed. The Court of Appeal determined that in the typical case, section 21198 directs CalPERS to reinstate an employee who was involuntarily terminated but then returned to that same classification as a result of an administrative or judicial proceeding. There may be atypical circumstances in which an individual can be properly reinstate, but if there are those instances, the statute requires a nexus between the new classification and the underlying dispute. In the absence of any such connection here, the Court found section 21198 prevented CalPERS's compliance with the settlement agreement. View "Byrd v. State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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Pneuma sued a former employee, a competitor that employee went to work for, and a Pneuma investor, alleging several business torts including claims under the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (Pen. Code section 502); for conversion; and for trespass to chattel relating to an internet domain. The investor filed a cross-complaint against Pneuma and its owner alleging they breached their investor agreement. The trial court ruled against Pneuma except on a single cause of action for trespass to chattel and ruled in favor of the investor on his cross-complaint. The court of appeal affirmed. A determination that a party engaged in trespass to chattel in a business context does not, without more, establish that the party engaged in an unlawful business practice under California’s Unfair Competition Law. (Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200). View "Pneuma International, Inc. v. Cho" on Justia Law

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Christopher Ross appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the County of Riverside on Ross's claims for violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 and for violation of the provisions in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code, sec. 12900 et seq.; FEHA) prohibiting disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to prevent disability discrimination. Ross worked for the County as a deputy district attorney. He was assigned to the homicide prosecution unit and was "responsible for however many cases were assigned to [him] by [his] supervisor." In May 2013, Ross learned he was exhibiting neurological symptoms that required evaluation and testing to determine whether he had a serious neurological condition, and told his supervisor he might be very seriously ill with a neurodegenerative disease and needed to undergo medical testing. He requested a transfer to another assignment during the testing. His supervisor declined his request, telling him the district attorney's office would worry about his cases and transferring him if and when he found out he could not continue in his position. Ross also asked not to be assigned any new cases until after he completed the medical testing. His supervisor declined this request without explanation. In late September 2013, Ross met with his supervisor, the chief deputy district attorney, and the assistant district attorney to discuss transferring him from the Homicide Unit to the Filing Unit for the next three months because he was not able to go to trial or accept new cases. In the assistant district attorney's view, Ross's inability to accept new cases or go to trial in the near term made him insufficiently productive to be a member of the Homicide Unit. By April 2014, the County wrote Ross explaining that for the County to engage in a good faith interactive process and to evaluate his request for accommodation the County needed medical documentation from an appropriate healthcare professional or from the board-certified specialist selected to perform the fitness-for-duty examination. Through counsel, Ross deemed himself constructively terminated as of the date of the letter. By June 2014, the County considered Ross to have abandoned his job. The Court of Appeal concluded there were triable issues of material fact on the questions of whether Ross engaged in protected activity under Labor Code section 1102.5 and whether Ross had a physical disability under the FEHA. The Court therefore reversed judgment as to these claims and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Ross v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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After the Department rescinded plaintiff's probationary promotion to lieutenant based on investigatory findings that he had failed to report a use of force several months before the Department promoted him to the probationary position, he filed a petition for writ of mandate in the trial court. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the petition for writ of mandate and agreed with the trial court's ruling that the Department's decision to deny plaintiff a promotion was merit-based. The court also held that plaintiff failed to show that the written evaluation detailing his unreported use of force will impact his career adversely in the future apart from the loss of his probationary position. View "Conger v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Christopher Ross appeals from a summary judgment granted in favor of the County of Riverside on Ross's claims for violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 and for violation of the provisions in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.; FEHA) prohibiting disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to prevent disability discrimination. Ross worked for the County as a deputy district attorney. He sought an accommodation with his work schedule based on a concussion syndrome he was experiencing from previous work in the Military. Supervisors there did not oblige, and Ross sued for violations of the Labor Code section 1102.5, but it was determined he could not establish his claim for disability discrimination because he could not prove he could perform the essential functions of his job. He could not establish his claim for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for the same reasons as well as because he could not prove he had any functional limitations requiring accommodation and his requested accommodation was not reasonable. He could not establish his claim for failure to engage in the interactive process because he did not interact in good faith. And, he could not establish his claim for failure to prevent disability discrimination because he could establish his claims for disability discrimination. Because the Court of Appeal concluded there were triable issues of material fact of the questions of whether Ross engaged in protected activity under Labor Code section 1102.5 and whether Ross had a physical disability under the FEHA, it reversed the judgment as to these claims and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Ross v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law