Employment Law Case Notes

CitationVol. 34 No. 2
Publication year2020
AuthorBy Anthony J. Oncidi
Employment Law Case Notes

By Anthony J. Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is a partner and the Chair of the Labor and Employment Department of Proskauer Rose LLP in Los Angeles, where he exclusively represents employers and management in all areas of employment and labor law. His telephone number is (310) 284-5690 and his email address is aoncidi@ proskauer.com. (Tony has authored this column without interruption for every issue of this publication since 1990.)

Church Affiliate Is Exempt From FEHA Liability, But Liable for $1.9 Million on Other Theories

Mathews v. Happy Valley Conference Ctr., 43 Cal. App. 5th 236 (2019)

Jeremiah Mathews worked as a maintenance supervisor and cook for Happy Valley Conference Center, which is a subordinate affiliate of Community of Christ (a church). Mathews alleged his employment was terminated in retaliation for his having reported harassment of a younger male employee by Happy Valley's female executive director. Following a trial, a jury awarded Mathews $900,000 in damages (including punitive damages) and almost $1 million in attorney's fees. In this appeal, the court of appeal reversed the judgment as to the retaliation claim arising under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), holding that defendants were entitled to rely upon the "religious association or corporation" exemption of Cal. Gov't Code § 12926(d), and that they had neither waived nor were they estopped from relying on the exemption. The appellate court otherwise affirmed the judgment in favor of Mathews, upholding the trial court's determination that the church and Happy Valley were a single employer within the meaning of Title VII; that defendants were liable for breach of an implied contract and that they had violated the whistleblower statute (Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5), for which Mathews was properly awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.

Disability Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Claims Were Properly Dismissed

Doe v. Department of Corr. & Rehab., 43 Cal. App. 5th 721 (2019)

John Doe, who worked as a psychologist at Ironwood State Prison, alleged discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based upon a disability; Doe also alleged that the employer violated FEHA in that it failed to accommodate his two alleged disabilities (asthma and dyslexia) by failing to relocate him to a "cleaner and quieter office" and not providing him with computer equipment he had requested. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employer, and the court of appeal...

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