This is Textbook: Cases Plaintiff’s Attorneys Should Avoid

In an unpublished decision, the Fourth District Court of Appeals recently disposed of a case that probably should not have ever been on its docket.

In Leuridan v. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, plaintiff appealed from a summary judgment and an order sustaining a demurrer.

Plaintiff was a correctional officer. He met and started dating another correctional officer, who later became a defendant, when they were both working at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. They continued dating for a few years and finally broke up after they were transferred to different facilities.

After their breakup, the correctional officers remained friends until plaintiff decided to get married. After plaintiff was engaged, he told his former girlfriend not to contact him except for business.

Plaintiff got married and a few months later, separated from his wife. They later divorced.

Meanwhile, defendant continued to contact plaintff by phone, emails and text messages. Defendant showed up at plaintiff’s office and defendant rubbed her hands on plaintiff’s shoulder and buttocks.

Plaintiff made a sexual harassment complaint against his old girlfriend.

CDCR did the right thing and immediately started an investigation. During the investigation, defendant revealed that plaintiff had lied about his educational background in order to obtain a promotion. The investigation concluded there was not sexual harassment because the parties formerly dated and plaintiff was not treated differently simply because of his sex.

Defendant was issued a counseling memo.

CDCR then decided to investigate defendant’s claim that plaintiff lied about his educational background. Sure enough, he did. He submitted documentation from a diploma mill designed to deceive his employer into believing that he had a bachelor’s degree. CDCR decided to terminate this peace officer for fraud and dishonesty.

At this point, would any plaintiff’s attorney take this guy’s case? Some would, one did, most would not.

Plaintiff sued CDCR and his former co-worker for:

 

  1. sexual harassment in violation of FEHA
  2. retaliation in violation of FEHA
  3. failure to investigate and prevent harassment in violation of FEHA, and
  4. wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

 

Plaintiff failed to file a claim against CDCR on the wrongful termination cause of action and so CDCR demurred and the demurrer was sustained with leave to amend. Plaintiff did not amend his complaint.

The individual defendants demurred to the second and third FEHA causes of action and the wrongful termination. The court sustained the demurrers.

CDCR and the former girlfriend then filed a motion for summary judgment on the FEHA causes of action. The court granted summary judgment for, among other things, failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Plaintiff, astonishingly, appealed.

The Court of Appeals concluded that summary judgment was proper on he sexual harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent causes of action because, well, there was nothing there. Plaintiff simply failed to provide any evidence of a hostile work enviornment that was severe enough or sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of employment. Additionally, when plaintiff initially complained, CDCR immediately investigated the allegations.

That was the investigation that led to the revelation that plaintiff lied about his educational background.

Plaintiff’s other causes of action were barred by the statute of limitations. He did not file his FEHA complaints within a year of getting his right-to-sue letter.

And the Court concluded there was no retaliation in plaintiff’s termination since plaintiff lied on his application and tried to deceive his employer – which he did, until the target of his complaints revealed plaintiff’s deep, dark secret.

This case is instructive on many levels. If you represent plaintiffs like I do, don’t choose to represent clients who are proven liars. It’s not worth it because there are plenty of good potential clients out there who are hard-working and honest and who nevertheless get the shaft by their employer.

If you miss the statute of limitations by months, don’t appeal! You’ll get your name in a court opinion!

Also, look closely at the facts. This case is not even a close call on sexual harassment. Why pick this battle?

Leuridan v. California Dep’t. of Corrections & Rehabilitation, et al., 2012 WL 733898 (2012).

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