at blackboardGenerally, most laws are designed to advance some sort of public policy objective. Each law, at its core, intends to protect or advance the public good in some way. So what happens when two laws, each with strong public policy bases, come into conflict with each other? A recent case that came before the California Supreme Court regarding the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the state’s anti-SLAPP statute demonstrated such a conflict. The case shows that any case can take twists and turns and encounter unforeseen complexities, which is why your FEHA case needs the careful attention of an experienced California employment attorney.

The recent Supreme Court opinion involved a Korean professor at one of the California State University campuses. In 2013, the university decided not to grant tenure to the professor. The professor sued, alleging that the university decided not to award him tenure due to national origin discrimination.

This is where the case became complicated. The employer asked the trial court to dismiss the case. The university’s argument was that the professor’s lawsuit impaired its freedom of speech and was a violation of California’s anti-SLAPP statutes. SLAPP refers to “strategic litigation against public participation.” This phrase refers to any lawsuit filed simply to intimidate, burden, or otherwise force someone to cease engaging in protected activity like free speech or petitioning for redress of grievances.

calendarIn some situations, the key to your success in your Fair Employment and Housing Act case may be related to some factual aspect of your case. In other circumstances, it may be the procedural rules related to FEHA lawsuits that potentially stand to make the difference between defeat and an opportunity to pursue your day in court. For one Southern California college professor, he was able to proceed only after he persuaded the Court of Appeal that his case was not barred by the statute of limitations. Making sure that you are in compliance with these and other procedural rules is one area where an experienced Oakland employment attorney can provide you with invaluable assistance.

The professor was a man named Guillermo, a Hispanic male of Mexican origin. He taught at a community college in Southern California. In November 2013, the professor’s employer decided not to grant him tenure. The final written notice of the denial of tenure was dated March 5, 2014. The professor initiated a grievance review procedure. That process reached its endpoint when a committee denied the professor’s grievance on May 21, 2014.

The employer terminated the professor’s employment on June 30, 2014, the last day of the 2013-14 academic year. On June 29, 2015, the professor filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging that he was a victim of race discrimination in violation of the FEHA. The professor followed that up with a FEHA lawsuit against the employer.

older womanSometimes, the conditions at a job can become beyond atrocious. These conditions can deteriorate to such an extreme extent that you feel you have no choice but to leave. If that negative treatment is a result of age, sex, or disability discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you may be able to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit, even if you resigned and were not fired. You can proceed under a theory known as “constructive discharge,” as one Southern California medical office worker recently did in her case. Your knowledgeable California wrongful termination attorney can explain how your case would work.

The plaintiff in the medical office case, Olga, worked in a Southern California dermatology office. While there, Olga allegedly suffered an extensive barrage of sex-related, age-related, and disability-related abuse by the doctor. The doctor called Olga too fat, too ugly, and too old, among other things, according to the woman.

Three years into her time at the office, the doctor hired another female employee. This new employee, Monica, was an attractive woman in her 20s. Shortly after Monica was hired, Olga, who was in her 40s, was demoted. This allegedly triggered a panic attack, and Olga took a leave of absence. On the day she returned, she resigned.

Ocotillo WellsAn allegedly “toxic” workplace in the San Diego County desert produced multiple lawsuits and, recently, a very important ruling from the California Court of Appeal. A state Parks and Recreation worker, who allegedly was intimidated so badly that she developed PTSD and a panic disorder, was, according to the recent ruling, entitled to pursue her civil lawsuit, rather than just file for workers’ compensation benefits. Since the alleged misconduct also amounted to a Fair Employment and Housing Act violation, that meant that the woman’s supervisor had stepped outside her proper role, which freed up the plaintiff to pursue her case in civil court.

According to certain employee lawsuits, the state Department of Parks and Recreation office at Ocotillo Wells had numerous problems with sexual and other forms of harassment. One worker, Delane, filed a lawsuit claiming that her supervisor, Lisa, loved to regale Delane and others with stories about the men she was sleeping with (or desired to sleep with) and demanded that Delane reciprocate with similar stories about the women in Delane’s sex life.

Delane’s complaint triggered an official investigation. Allegedly, Lisa ordered her subordinates, including a woman, Melony, to lie to the investigators. According to Melony’s lawsuit, Lisa stated that Melony should protect her and other supervisors and that, if she didn’t, “your career will be over.”

Google logoThe Fair Employment and Housing Act offers considerable protections to a variety of groups of employees. Of course, employees cannot be subjected to discrimination based upon gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. However, the law doesn’t stop there. It also protects employees from discrimination based upon political activity. That protection can potentially include a variety of types of activities and employees, including, as noted in a recent article on TheStreet.com, the now-famous former Google software engineer who was terminated after publishing a memo criticizing the corporation’s diversity policies.

James Damore had been a Google employee for 3 1/2 years when he wrote “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” The memo critiqued the way in which Google set out to achieve diversity, including criticism of the way in which those employment practices affected the genders. After the engineer published the memo, the employer terminated him, allegedly for violating Google’s employee “code of conduct.”

Some observers have theorized that Google’s abrupt and immediate termination of the engineer’s employment may provide the engineer with a cause of action under the FEHA. Section 1102 of the code bars employers from coercing or influencing employees “to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.” This includes coercion or influence in the forms of loss of employment or threat of loss of employment.

Barnes & NobleCalifornia is one of many states that recognizes “at-will” employment. At-will employment generally means that either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship at any time for any reason or no reason (subject to limitations like those barring illegal discrimination). If you think you’ve been improperly fired, though, you should contact a California employment attorney right away. Even if your employment began as an at-will arrangement, the specific facts surrounding your employment experience may mean that your employer’s actions created an implied contract, and that may help you in your wrongful termination action, as was the case for one Northern California book store manager.

Christine was a manager at a major book store chain and had been since 1989. From 2002 until her termination in 2010, she managed the store at West Valley College outside San Jose. After the employer fired her abruptly and unexpectedly in June 2010, she filed a lawsuit over the termination. In her action, she asserted a claim for wrongful termination.

The employer argued, successfully in the trial court, that it was not liable because the manager was an “at-will” employee and that the termination was done for legitimate business reasons. Specifically, among other things, the college president had contacted Christine’s supervisor in the spring of 2010 and requested that the book store replace her. The trial court sided with the employer because, in its opinion, the employee had failed to rebut the employer’s arguments related to its legitimate business reasons for firing her.

Transgender flagOn July 1 of this year, several new regulations went into effect here in California. One group of new Fair Employment and Housing Act regulations provides importance guidance and obligations for employers when it comes to transgender employees and anti-discrimination protections afforded to them under the law and regulations.

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LGBT flagThere are many types of discrimination in the workplace, and there are many varieties of such discrimination that the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits. In some cases, the discrimination may stem from an employee’s sexual orientation. In other cases, though, the discrimination is less about the employee’s orientation and more about his outward appearance relative to gender and sexuality. That type of case was what a Southern California management employee asserted:  that his employer fired him because, based upon his outward presentation, he was “too gay.”

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golferAny injury case will have its challenges that can get in the way of your success. This can be especially true if the defendant in your case is a public entity. However, with a strong enough case, you can still go after public entities in some situations. In one recent case from Southern California, a mother and her son were allowed to continue their pursuit of their premises liability case against a city after an errant golf ball from an adjoining golf course struck the boy as he rode along a pedestrian walkway.

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FedEx driverAs a plaintiff, it is important to avoid doing unnecessary things that will strengthen the defendants’ position and essentially amount to your helping to make their case for them. This is particularly true when it comes to discovery in a personal injury case. One must disclose and divulge what the rules demand, but there may also be many good reasons to reject a defendant’s request when the law says that you are not obligated to acquiesce. In the recent case of an injured truck driver, the California Court of Appeal decided that the plaintiff did not have to participate in an examination that the defense wanted to conduct, since that type of discovery wasn’t covered by the discovery statute.

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