PsychotherapyA recent ruling by a federal District Court in San Francisco provides a useful reminder to both employees and employers of the narrow circumstances in which the employers may demand psychological fitness-for-work examinations without violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act, due in part to the potentially powerful negative impacts of requiring employees to undergo such exams. In the recent case, since the exam in question never actually took place, the court concluded that neither side was entitled to summary judgment, and the issue of the exam demand’s compliance with the FEHA should proceed to trial.

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magnifying glassIn a personal injury case, you have a lot of important decisions to make. One of those is whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. This is one of many areas where experienced counsel can help immensely. Whether it is wise or unwise to accept a settlement may depend greatly on whether that settlement constitutes a “998 offer” under the California statutes. In another recent case exploring the criteria for valid 998 offers, the California Court of Appeal upheld a ruling against a driver because the release she included as part of the offer she extended was too broad to qualify as a 998 offer.

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calendar screenWhen you have a potential employment discrimination case, there are many legal procedural hurdles you may have to clear. One of these is making sure that you file the appropriate legal documents before the deadline for filing passes. Filing late could mean losing out entirely on the chance to pursue your case. In one recent Fair Employment and Housing Act case, the California Court of Appeal ruled that, contrary to the decision of a lower court, the man had not missed the applicable deadline and could proceed with his claim of racial discrimination.

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police car crashPursuing your personal injury case can involve many complex steps. The law allows a variety of techniques for presenting your case. In fact, there may be a point in your case at which you bring forward multiple contentions, some of which may seem to be in conflict with one another. The law allows you to present alternative claims for liability and alternative factual allegations, and, according to a recent California Court of Appeal case, the use of this technique should not be considered to be a “sham” and disallowed.

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Judge's gavelThere are a lot of things that go into pursuing a personal injury case, including many decisions that must be made and procedural hurdles that must be cleared. At any of a number of points in the process, making a wrong choice in how you pursue your case can cause you to lose, on procedural grounds, your opportunity to obtain the compensation you deserve. That’s what makes tackling your personal injury case on your own so risky. Just as you know all the nuances in your career field, your injury attorney readily knows all of the laws, rules, and procedural hoops that must be complied with simply to get your day in court. One injured Northern California man’s case provided a stark example, since his procedural errors led the court to throw out a default judgment in his favor and also dismiss his case entirely.

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bell pepperAn employer who was 64 years old when his employer terminated his employment, allegedly for stealing a bell pepper from the workplace cafeteria, recently received some good news from the California Court of Appeal. That court upheld a lower court’s verdict in his favor and the $16 million damages award that went with it. The appeals court made its ruling because the employee had provided ample proof at trial to allow the jury to conclude that the employer didn’t really fire an employee with a relatively clean record for possibly stealing a 68-cent vegetable. Additionally, the employer’s acts of hiding its illegal motives behind false non-discriminatory reasons constituted the sort of malice that permitted a punitive damages award.

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The imagery of a hanging noose often carries with it strong connotations, particularly for African-Americans. Despite this image’s potency, a federal court decided that an African-American worker’s discovery of a noose hanging at his work site was not enough to allow the employee to proceed with a hostile work environment claim. Generally, successful hostile work environment claims require proof of “pervasive or severe” race discrimination, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that a single noose-hanging incident was neither pervasive nor sufficiently severe.mechanic

The employee, Jon Henry, had worked as an HVAC mechanic at the University of California at San Francisco since 2006. During his time there, Henry claimed that he experienced multiple instances of racial animus that created a hostile work environment. These included inappropriate racial comments, the use of racial epithets, and, in July 2012, the hanging of a noose in the workplace.

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Night Court BailiffA recent California Court of Appeal case from Northern California reaffirms the difference between disability discrimination cases and other types of disability matters. In this 2016 decision, the court re-affirmed that, if an employee is alleging that his employer discriminated based upon his disability or perceived disability, he is not required to prove that the employer’s adverse actions were the result of an intent to discriminate.

The employee in the case, Dennis Wallace, was a sheriff’s deputy in Stanislaus County. Wallace, who had previously injured his left knee at work, received a 12-month assignment as a court bailiff in 2010. Six months into the assignment, in October 2010, a medical exam revealed that the deputy’s knee was seriously damaged, and the doctor placed Wallace on further restrictions. Despite Wallace’s claims that he could perform the duties of his job, the employer decided to place him on leave. The employer made its decision based upon the mistaken belief that the October 2010 medical report left it no choice but to place the deputy on leave. Wallace remained on unpaid leave for more than a year, when he passed a fitness-for-duty exam.

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Motorcycle AccidentSettlement offers are part of many personal injury cases. Weighing whether to accept or reject an offer can be complicated, especially when you receive a statutory settlement offer in your California injury lawsuit. Rejecting such an offer and then obtaining a judgment that is less than the offered settlement amount could mean that you’re on the hook for paying some of the other side’s court costs. One injured Northern California motorcyclist escaped such a fate, even though the judgment he received was less than the amount offered, since the California Court of Appeal decided that the terms of the other side’s offer did not comply with the law’s requirements.

This case began with an auto accident in Alameda County. Seventeen-year-old Jacy Rasnick was driving her father’s car when she ran a stop sign and struck a motorcycle driven by Charles Sanford. Sanford sued the driver and her father for his injuries. The Rasnicks, through their lawyer, extended a statutory “998 offer” in the amount of $130,000. The Rasnicks conditioned this offer on Sanford’s entering into a settlement agreement and general release with them.

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dialysis-arm-01A groundbreaking new California Court of Appeal ruling has expanded the rights of workers under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, establishing that not only does that law protect employees with disabilities, but also it protects employees with family members who have disabilities. In the recent case, the court announced, for the first time, that employers have a legal responsibility to reasonably accommodate employees who have family members with disabilities and who depend on the employee for assistance.

Luis Castro-Ramirez, the employee in the case, had a son who required daily dialysis. When the man sought employment as a truck driver with Dependable Highway Express, Inc. in 2009, he told his prospective employer about the child’s needs. Specifically, he notified the employer that the child needed dialysis every day and that Castro-Ramirez was responsible for administering that daily dialysis. Only people who have completed classes in administering dialysis can perform the task, and Castro-Ramirez was the only person in his household who qualified.

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