A California Job Applicant Allegedly Rejected Based on to Race Doesn’t Include a FEHA Claim in His Lawsuit, and Loses

In any kind of situation where you’ve suffered a legal wrong, you only have limited time to act. Wait too long and you may have your options for achieving success and much-needed compensation narrowed substantially – or you may lose all your options entirely. If you’ve been the victim of discrimination at work or in applying for a job, don’t wait! Reach out to an experienced Oakland employment law attorney today.

W.W. was someone who, on the surface, seemed to have pretty strong case of discrimination. He was a caterer who, for 15 months, catered meals to both the visiting and home team players at the home field of the Sacramento minor league baseball team. W.W. eventually applied for the job of assistant clubhouse manager. At the time, W.W. was already performing some of the functions of an assistant clubhouse manager.

Additionally, the manager of the visitors’ clubhouse, who was also the man who hired W.W., recommended him for the job. Despite those credentials, the employer hired a teenager who was still in high school and who reportedly “did not meet any of the qualifications for the job.” W.W. was African American; the teen was white.

W.W. eventually sued. He asserted several claims, including violations of California public policy, violations of several state civil rights laws and violations of state unfair business practices laws. The key to the applicant’s case was something called a Tameny claim, which is a legal claim based upon a 1980 California Supreme Court case. That case said that employers cannot fire an employee if that firing would “contravene public policy.”

The problem this job applicant had was that a Tameny claim only applies to employee-employer relationships. It does not protect employment applicants. A plaintiff using this claim has to show that he had an existing employee-employer relationship with the defendant or else the claim was vulnerable to being thrown out. That what happened to W.W. – as his claim was dismissed and that ruling was upheld on appeal.

Why, you may wonder, didn’t this man file a claim for race discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act? Unlike the Tameny claim, FEHA claims can apply to job applicants as well as employees, meaning the argument about W.W.’s status as a non-employee wouldn’t have mattered.

The clock is ticking… so don’t delay

There are, however, some stricter limitations on FEHA claims. For one thing, you first have to go through an administrative process where you file with the DFEH and obtain what’s called a “right-to-sue” letter, but getting that letter is an extremely low bar, as the DFEH grants right-to-sue letters to nearly all filers.

Additionally, though, California law gives you only one year to file with the DFEH. Failing to file with that agency within 12 months can mean that you forever lose your right to recover in court on a discrimination claim. Indeed, while the court in W.W.’s case did not explain this plaintiff’s litigation strategy, the reason that some plaintiffs engage in “creative” inclusion of certain claims, along with the exclusion of other, seemingly more obvious claims, is the result of these filing deadlines. As compared to the FEHA one-year administrative filing deadline, the law gives you three years to file suit under a Tameny claim.

What you can take away from all these legal technicalities is that sooner you get started on your discrimination case, the better. Be sure that this “start” involves contacting the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Attorney Fuerch is a skilled Oakland employment law attorney with many years of helping discriminated workers seek justice. To learn more about how we can help, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

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