Nightmare Case: FEHA and SOL

Here’s a nightmare case for a plaintiff’s attorney and her client. In this story, plaintiff filed a FEHA lawsuit against the Los Angeles Fire Department for racial discrimination, racial harassment and retaliation.

The case went to trial and plaintiff lost. But plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial alleging juror misconduct which the trial court granted and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

So the case goes back to trial. This time, the jury awarded plaintiff over $1 million in damages. Great! Not so fast.

The City of Los Angeles filed a JNOV motion, resting partly on a statute of limitations defense claiming plaintiff’s DFEH complaint was filed more than one year after the discriminatory events occurred. The trial court denied the JNOV. The City appealed.

In the appeal, plaintiff argued the continuing violation doctrine should apply while the City argued that all of the discriminatory events occurred more than a year before plaintiff filed his DFEH complaint.

I won’t detail all the facts here, but the City of Los Angeles won and plaintiff lost. After two trials! What a roller-coaster. What a financial disaster (I’m guessing.)

The Court reminds us of the following:

When an employer engages in a continuing course of unlawful conduct under the FEHA by refusing reasonable accommodation of a disabled employee or engaging in disability harassment, and this course of conduct does not constitute a constructive discharge, the statute of limitations begins to run, not necessarily when the employee first believes that his or her rights may have been violated, but rather, either when the course of conduct is brought to an end, as by the employer’s cessation of such conduct or by the employee’s resignation, or when the employee is on notice that further efforts to end the unlawful conduct will be in vain.

If you have a case in which you think the continuing violation doctrine applies, make sure you read this case.

Jabari Jumaane v. City of Los Angeles
2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 1000

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