Disability Discrimination, Retaliation and Sexual Harassment
Protecting employees from workplace discrimination and retaliation continue to be a primary focus for both California courts and the legislature. The following case recaps provide a glimpse into some of the decisions regarding discrimination and retaliation.
Discrimination and Retaliation
- Aviles-Rodrigues v. Los Angeles Community College District – The Second Appellate District reversed previous judgment and held that a professor denied tenure has one year from the last date of his employment, and not from the prior notification of denial of tenure, to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). This case involved a review committee's denial of tenure for a professor, who claimed that the denial was based upon his race.
- Husman v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp. – Joseph Husman alleged sexual orientation discrimination based on the “perception he was too gay” and retaliation for alleged criticisms he made concerning Toyota's commitment to diversity. A trial court sided with Toyota on both retaliatory and discrimination claims, but an appellate court reversed the latter discrimination decision. While Toyota had non-discriminatory reasons for the plaintiff's termination, the plaintiff provided evidence that a manager made negative comments regarding his sexuality and ridiculed him for essentially being “too gay.” Based on that, the court determined that discrimination could have been a substantial motivating factor in the employee's discharge, and sent the case back to the lower court for a trial on the merits.
- M.F. v. Pacific Pearl Hotel Management. LLC – This case involved an engineering manager's failure to remove an intoxicated trespasser from the Pacific Pearl Hotel and to inform staff of the trespasser's presence. The lack of communication and failure to check on all housekeeping staff led to the assault and rape of a housekeeper by a drunk non-employee trespasser that the employer knew or should have known was on the premises and had aggressively propositioned other employees prior to the attack. The appellate court reversed and remanded the superior court's dismissal of a claim under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and confirmed that FEHA allows an employee to sue an employer for sexual harassment at the hands of nonemployees.
Medical Leave and Reasonable Accommodations
A couple of cases exemplify appellate courts opinions regarding disability discrimination and medical leave for private and public employees.
• Bareno v. San Diego Community College District – The California Court of Appeal issued a decision in favor of an employee of San Diego Miramar College who was released for “job abandonment” while out on medical leave. The court reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of the College, holding a reasonable fact-finder could conclude the College retaliated against the employee for taking medical leave protected under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). The result of this case issued a reminder for employers to check whether an employee is off work for a medical reason before terminating on the basis of job abandonment.
• Featherstone v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group – This case determined that an employer has no obligation to provide reasonable accommodations if it has no knowledge of an employee's disability. Plaintiff Ruth Featherstone was the employee who resigned, yet later withdrew her resignation, alleging her severe sinusitis, surgery and medication to treat the illness made her act erratically. The California Court of Appeal for the Second District held that refusing to allow an employee to rescind her voluntary resignation does not constitute an adverse employment action.
The preceding cases highlight the intricacies California employers must face when dealing with employee disabilities, as well as potential discrimination and sexual harassment. Should you have questions about ADA, disability discrimination, or sexual harassment don't hesitate to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call and speak to an experienced California lawyer toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or contact us via email.
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