May a partner assert FEHA claims for retaliation for opposing harassment of the partnership’s employees?
The California First District Court of Appeal says yes, in Fitzsimons v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group.
The partnership (“CEP”), is a group of emergency room physicians with some 700+ partners. Plaintiff was a partner/physician, who worked her way up the CEP foodchain to regional director and found herself a seat on CEP’s board of directors.
WHile in these lofty positions, plaintiff complained that some of CEP’s officers and agents were sexually harassing CEP female employees.
Even though plaintiff was a regional director on the board of directors, the others apparently didn’t take kindly to her complaints and plaintiff lost her position as regional director.
Plaintiff got mad and sued for retaliation in violation of FEHA.
The trial court said she could not sue her partners. The jury found she was a partner, and that ended that.
Until plaintiff appealed.
The appeals court found that since plaintiff was complaining of misconduct directed to CEP employees, she had standing to sue under FEHA.
Remember when the California Supreme Court ignored plain, unambiguous English and proclaimed that supervisors in employment situations were not “persons” under FEHA? Jones v. Lodge at Torrey Pines Partnership, 42 Cal.4th 1158 (2008).
Well, defendants here tried to muck up the waters by citing to Jones and the silliness over the definition of “person.” Except here, the Court wisely concluded, after some squirming around on its own, that “person” indeed means a “person” and therefore decided to give “person” its “normal meaning.” FEHA defines, in Government Code Section 12925(d) “person” and that definition includes “partnerships.”
Seems clear to me!
All of this means that a partnership cannot retaliate against a partner for complaining of or reporting FEHA violations against an employee of the partnership.
Fitzsimons v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group, 205 Cal.App.4th 1423 (May 16, 2012)