Things have been slow in the California appellate courts publishing opinions affecting FEHA. So here are a couple of recent unpublished opinions. Even though unpublished opinions cannot be cited for precedent, I often read them anyway.
In Vasquez v. Pitzer College, a professor filed a lawsuit against her university employer alleging unlawful gender discrimination, hostile work environment sexual harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, all in violation of FEHA.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted. The MSJ was affirmed.
The main point I took from the case was the employer’s response to the employee’s complaints of sexual harassment. The court noted that even though there was a delay of several months before the employer reported the alleged sexual harassment, when the complaint was filed the employer immediately formed an investigation committee that took written and oral statements from the parties involved and other witnesses and the employer immediately instructed the alleged harasser to cease all contact with the complainant.
So if you’re an employer, read this case for a good outline on how to respond to a complaint of sexual harassment.
There is also a long soliloquy of the definition of “supervisor” under FEHA. Very detailed and very boring. But if you have a case in which the distinction is critical but the facts are blurry, this boring passage might help.
Another case involves alleged sexual harassment and disability discrimination in violation of FEHA. In Russo v. Sanofi-Aventis, plaintiff appealed a summary judgment. The summary judgment was affirmed on appeal.
This is a tedious case to read. First of all, it is poorly written without an introduction to inform the reader what the reader is getting him/herself into. And what this reader found was an employment situation gone amok, without any apparent likable characters on either side.
Nothing worse than a boring soap opera. The lesson here is to make a case interesting and if you are a potential plaintiff, think twice before filing a lawsuit with almost a dozen causes of action if none of them jump right out at you.
The trial court and the appeals court did a big favor here for potential jurors!