In most any case, it is important to ensure that your complaint names all the defendants potentially liable to you and includes all potentially viable claims for a judgment in your favor. Making sure that you’ve done your pre-trial “homework” to identify all of the entities potentially liable to you is important to ensure that you get the full benefit of the sum awarded by the jury. Including all of the possible claims is important because, the more avenues for the court to find the defendants liable, the greater your chances for success. As you face the possibility of pursuing a discrimination and/or retaliation case in court, be sure you are getting the legal advice you need from a knowledgeable Oakland employment attorney to ensure your court filings are giving you that maximized chance of success.
As an example, there’s the case of J.M., who worked in a maintenance position for a conference center in Santa Cruz. That conference center was a subordinate unit of a Missouri-based church. At one point during J.M.’s employment, a younger male co-worker showed J.M. some messages M.G., the center’s executive director, had sent to the younger man, which he considered suggestive and inappropriate.
The messages were eventually shown to a member of the conference center’s board, who took the messages to the church’s general legal counsel. The employees followed this path of escalation because they feared retaliation from M.G.
M.G.’s superiors ultimately decided that her texts were “jokes in poor taste,” and not sexual harassment. She was merely reprimanded. Shortly after that, J.M. allegedly became the target of a retaliation campaign.
This led J.M. to sue. In his lawsuit, he named both the center and the church as defendants. He asserted claims under both federal law (Title VII) and state law (FEHA). He argued that he had been fired from his job in retaliation for reporting suspected sexual harassment.
After the trial, the jury awarded J.M. $1.9 million in damages, finding that the defendants violated Title VII and FEHA. The defendants appealed and the appeals court concluded that they were entitled to something called the “religious association or corporation” exemption. In other words, they were religious entities, and, under California law, religious entities were exempt from liability under FEHA. The appeals court, however, upheld the trial court’s judgment on all the other claims. That meant that, even though the FEHA claim got thrown out, J.M. was still entitled to a judgment in his favor and to the $1.9 million in damages. Because J.M.’s complaint asserted more than just a FEHA claim, his damages award remained untouched even after the appellate court’s “religious association or corporation” ruling.
When it comes to making these decisions about what claims to assert and what defendants to name (among other essential choices,) be sure to rely on knowledgeable legal representation. The Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch is here to give you the sort of advice and advocacy upon which you can confidently rely. Attorney Fuerch is an experienced Oakland employment attorney who has helped many clients achieve success in their discrimination, harassment and retaliation cases. To learn more, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.