This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 11/10/2020 at 08:39:04 (UTC).

DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING VS SANTA CLARITA

Case Summary

On 03/27/2018 DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING filed a Civil Right - Other Civil Right lawsuit against SANTA CLARITA. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is GAIL FEUER. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****9467

  • Filing Date:

    03/27/2018

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Civil Right - Other Civil Right

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

GAIL FEUER

 

Party Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner

DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING

Defendants and Respondents

SANTA CLARITA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT

COLLEGE OF THE CANYONS

DOES 1 TO 10

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING

WIPPER JANETTE L

PEARLMAN PAULA DEE

Defendant Attorneys

WALSH DENNIS JOHN

PITTS ANTOINE MICHAEL

 

Court Documents

Motion in Limine - MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 3 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE RE DEFENDANTS DEFICIENT DEFENSES EXPECTED TO BE OFFERED AT TRIAL POINTSAND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT THEREOF

3/13/2020: Motion in Limine - MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 3 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE RE DEFENDANTS DEFICIENT DEFENSES EXPECTED TO BE OFFERED AT TRIAL POINTSAND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT THEREOF

Motion in Limine - MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 4 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE RE DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSINGS INVESTIGATION EXPECTED TO BE OFFERED AT TRIAL POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT THEREOF

3/13/2020: Motion in Limine - MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 4 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE RE DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSINGS INVESTIGATION EXPECTED TO BE OFFERED AT TRIAL POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT THEREOF

Declaration - DECLARATION OF ALEXANDRA SELD IN IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE EXPECTED TO BE OFFERED AT TRIAL RE LAURA ANDERSONS WORKERS COMPENSATION

3/13/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ALEXANDRA SELD IN IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS MOTION IN LIMINE NO. 1 TO EXCLUDE EVIDENCE EXPECTED TO BE OFFERED AT TRIAL RE LAURA ANDERSONS WORKERS COMPENSATION

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint) - PROOF OF SERVICE (NOT SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT) VIA FIRST CLASS MAIL

10/25/2018: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint) - PROOF OF SERVICE (NOT SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT) VIA FIRST CLASS MAIL

Declaration - PLAINTIFFS STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION

2/14/2020: Declaration - PLAINTIFFS STATEMENT OF ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FACTS IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION

Brief - BRIEF PLAINTIFF DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSINGS INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE BRIEF

2/20/2020: Brief - BRIEF PLAINTIFF DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSINGS INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE BRIEF

Other - - OTHER - RULING RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

2/7/2020: Other - - OTHER - RULING RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Order - ORDER [GRANTING EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR ORDER SETTING INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE ON SHORTENED TIME

12/13/2019: Order - ORDER [GRANTING EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR ORDER SETTING INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE ON SHORTENED TIME

Declaration - DECLARATION OF ALEXANDRA SELDIN IN SUPPORT OF DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING'S EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR ORDER ADVANCING THE HEARING DATE ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FIL

1/9/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ALEXANDRA SELDIN IN SUPPORT OF DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING'S EX PARTE APPLICATION FOR ORDER ADVANCING THE HEARING DATE ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FIL

Response - RESPONSE DEFENDANT SANTA CLARITA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT'S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE APPLICATION

12/13/2019: Response - RESPONSE DEFENDANT SANTA CLARITA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT'S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE APPLICATION

Motion for Summary Judgment

11/26/2019: Motion for Summary Judgment

Informal Discovery Conference

11/7/2019: Informal Discovery Conference

Informal Discovery Conference

10/31/2019: Informal Discovery Conference

Notice - NOTICE OF RESCHEDULED DATE OF INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE

6/13/2019: Notice - NOTICE OF RESCHEDULED DATE OF INFORMAL DISCOVERY CONFERENCE

Proof of Service by Mail

2/22/2019: Proof of Service by Mail

Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

11/19/2018: Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore

Answer

11/19/2018: Answer

NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TD STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT; ETC.

5/10/2018: NOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TD STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT; ETC.

142 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 04/13/2021
  • Hearing04/13/2021 at 09:30 AM in Department 78 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Jury Trial

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  • 03/30/2021
  • Hearing03/30/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 78 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Final Status Conference

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  • 07/09/2020
  • DocketResponse (DEFENDANT?S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF?S NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF PLAINTIFF?S MOTIONS IN LIMINE); Filed by Santa Clarita Community College District (Defendant)

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  • 07/06/2020
  • DocketNotice (of Withdrawal of Motion in Limine 1 - 5); Filed by Department of Fair Employment and Housing (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/06/2020
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Santa Clarita Community College District (Defendant)

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  • 07/02/2020
  • Docketat 2:30 PM in Department 78; Trial Setting Conference - Held

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  • 07/02/2020
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Trial Setting Conference)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/22/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 78; Trial Setting Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 04/27/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 78; Hearing on Motion for Leave to Amend (Motion for Leave to Amend Civil Complaint) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 04/23/2020
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 78; Hearing on Motion for Protective Order

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185 More Docket Entries
  • 05/10/2018
  • DocketMotion to Strike; Filed by Defendant/Respondent

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  • 05/10/2018
  • DocketRequest for Judicial Notice; Filed by Defendant/Respondent

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  • 05/10/2018
  • DocketNOTICE OF MOTION AND MOTION TD STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT; ETC.

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  • 04/16/2018
  • DocketProof-Service/Summons

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  • 04/16/2018
  • DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 04/12/2018
  • DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

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  • 04/12/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/27/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by null

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  • 03/27/2018
  • DocketCIVIL COMPLAINT FOR COMPENSATORY DAMAGES.AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF FOR EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION (1) DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IGOV. CODE, 12940, SUBD. (A)] ;ETC

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  • 03/27/2018
  • DocketSUMMONS

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BC699467    Hearing Date: March 02, 2020    Dept: 78

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING,

Plaintiff,

vs.

SANTA CLARITA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, et al.;

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC699467

Hearing Date:

March 2, 2020

[TENTATIVE] RULING RE:

defendant santa clarita community college district’s motion for SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Defendant Santa Clarita Community College District’s Motion for Summary Judgment, or, in the Alternative, Adjudication of Each Cause of Action, is GRANTED as to the Fourth Cause of Action and DENIED as to the remainder.

Factual Background

This is an action for disability discrimination. The Complaint alleges as follows. Plaintiff Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) brings this action on behalf of real party in interest Laura Anderson. (“Anderson.”) (Complaint ¶ 1.)

Anderson began employment with defendant Santa Clarita Community College District (“District”) in 2006, and works there as an administrative assistant. (Complaint ¶ 12.) In 2013 she sustained an injury similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and was placed on work restrictions. (Complaint ¶ 13.) A flare-up in May 2014 again restricted her ability to type to a limit of four hours per day. (Complaint ¶ 13.) The District agreed to allow her to work four hours per day, but did not reduce her work-load to compensate; it also brought on an assistant to help Anderson, but the assistant was assigned to unrelated tasks, and did not reduce her workload. (Complaint ¶ 14.) When Anderson asked for a transfer to an alternative position, she was told the District did not grant such accommodations. (Complaint. ¶ 13.)

In January 2015, the District’s HR Manager met with Anderson and informed her that she could no longer work on a reduced schedule, and that she was being placed on leave effective immediately. (Complaint ¶ 14.) The District did not consider Anderson’s requests for an alternative accommodation. (complaint ¶ 14.)

Fourteen months later, in April 2016, Anderson was notified that she would soon exhaust all her paid accrued leave, and that if she was unable to work, she would be separated from service. (Complaint ¶ 15.) Anderson responded by requesting an unpaid leave of absence, and reiterating that the District had wrongfully denied her accommodations in the preceding two years. (Complaint ¶ 15.) The District denied her request without explanation and in departure from District policy. (Complaint ¶ 16.)

In May 2016, Anderson’s doctor released her to return to work with no restrictions, and she returned to her regular position, but under new supervisors. (Complaint ¶ 17.) But her supervisor inexplicably changed Anderson’s work duties to make her job more difficult, berated her when she failed to perform her exacting new duties, and directed other employees not to associate with her. (Complaint ¶ 17.) When Anderson complained of the differential treatment, no action was taken. (Complaint ¶ 18.)

Anderson is now on leave of absence due to stress from her mistreatment. (Complaint ¶ 19.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

DFEH filed the Complaint on March 27, 2018, alleging five causes of action:

  1. Disability Discrimination

  2. Failure to Engage in the Interactive Process

  3. Failure to Accommodate Disability

  4. Retaliation

  5. Failure to Prevent Discrimination

On November 26, 2019, the District filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment without including tabs, either electronic or physical.]

On February 14, 2020, DFEH filed an Opposition.

On February 26, 2020, the District filed a Reply, two days after it was due.

DISCUSSION

  1. OBJECTIONS

    The District subjects objections to various of DFEH’s evidence submitted in Opposition to the District’s Motion. Objections Nos. 4, 18 (only as to the first sentence), 24 (only as to the first sentence), 25 (as to all but the first sentence), 26 (as to the last sentence), 44, 45 (as to the second sentence), 48, and 49 are SUSTAINED, the remainder are OVERRULED, including nos. 22-23, which are Anderson describing her duties, which are objected to, in part, because they allegedly misstate her deposition testimony. without providing a citation to that testimony.

    DFEH submits objections to various of the District’s evidence submitted in support of its Motion. Objections Nos. 2, 3, 6, 8 (as to the last sentence), 10 (as to the first sentence), 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22 (as to the last sentence), 26 (as to the last sentence), 28, 29, 30, 31 (as to the second sentence), 32, 34 (as to the second sentence, 35, 37, 43 (as to the first sentence), 45 (as to the second sentence), 46, 47, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 (as to everything after “Jarred A. Niska, M.D.”), and 56 are SUSTAINED, the remainder are OVERRULED.

  2. JUDICIAL NOTICE

    Where the motion is based on a matter of which the court may take judicial notice pursuant to Section 452 or 453 of the Evidence Code, the matter shall be specified in the notice of motion, or in the supporting points and authorities, except as the court may otherwise permit. (California Code of Civil Procedure §438(d)). Any request for judicial notice must be made in a separate document listing the items for which notice is requested. (CRC 3.1113(l)). Judicial notice may be taken of “((d) Records of (1) any court of this state or (2) any court of record of the United States or of any state of the United States.” (Evid. Code § 452.)

    The District seeks judicial notice of its filed Answer to DFEH’s Complaint. The Court GRANTS this request.

  3. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

    A party may move for summary judgment “if it is contended that the action has no merit or that there is no defense to the action or proceeding.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (a).) “[I]f all the evidence submitted, and all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence and uncontradicted by other inferences or evidence, show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” the moving party will be entitled to summary judgment. (Adler v. Manor Healthcare Corp. (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1110, 1119.) A motion for summary adjudication may be made by itself or as an alternative to a motion for summary judgment and shall proceed in all procedural respects as a motion for summary judgment. (Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (f)(2).)

    The moving party bears an initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing of the nonexistence of any triable issue of material fact, and if he does so, the burden shifts to the opposing party to make a prima facie showing of the existence of a triable issue of material fact. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850; accord Code Civ. Proc. § 437c, subd. (p)(2).) To establish a triable issue of material fact, the party opposing the motion must produce substantial responsive evidence. (Sangster v. Paetkau (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 151, 166.)

    Neither a moving or responding party may rely on the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. A moving party must submit specific admissible evidence showing that the responding party cannot establish at least one element of his, her or its cause of action or defense. The responding party, to defeat the motion, must submit specific admissible evidence showing that a triable issue of material fact does exist as to that element of the cause of action or defense. (Sangster v. Paetkau (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 151, 166.)

    The “Golden Rule” on a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication is that “if [a fact] is not set forth in the separate statement, it does not exist.” (Zimmerman, Rosenfeld, Gersh & Leeds LLP v. Larson (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 1466, 1477, citing United Community Church v. Garcin (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 327, 337.).

    Here, the District moves for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication, as to all five causes of action.

  1. Statute of Limitations

The District argues that FEHA claims have a one-year statute of limitations, and that because Anderson filed her complaint with DFEH on March 30, 2017, the causes of action in this case are limited to actions occurring on or after March 30, 2016. (Motion at p. 7.) The allegations in the Complaint are alleged to have taken place from mid-2013 through mid-2016. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-19.)

The Court has already addressed this argument in its November 9, 2018 ruling, when the District made an identical argument in a Motion to Strike, which was denied. In its November 9, 2018 ruling, this Court found that DFEH’s claims are not time-barred because FEHA plaintiffs may seek relief from an employer’s continuing violation, extending beyond the limitations period:

[A]n employer's persistent failure to reasonably accommodate a disability, or to eliminate a hostile work environment targeting a disabled employee, is a continuing violation if the employer's unlawful actions are (1) sufficiently similar in kind—recognizing, as this case illustrates, that similar kinds of unlawful employer conduct, such as acts of harassment or failures to reasonably accommodate disability, may take a number of different forms; (2) have occurred with reasonable frequency; (3) and have not acquired a degree of permanence.

(Richards v. CH2M Hill, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 798, 823, internal citations omitted.)

The Court is further not persuaded by the District’s argument that the continuing violations does not apply because Anderson knew prior to 2016 that the District would not accommodate her, and thus that “any further efforts to end the alleged discrimination would ‘be futile’.” (Motion at pp. 7-8.)

The Court also previously addressed this argument in its November 2018 ruling that the District’s argument was a misstatement of the law as it applies to reasonable accommodation claimants:

[W]hen 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.

(Richardssupra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 823.)

A disability-discrimination plaintiff may prosecute a cause on a continuing-violation basis, even if at a prior time they “believe[d] that his or her rights may have been violated.” (Ibid.)

The District’s arguments, here, are a repetition of its previous arguments. The Court rejects these arguments for the same reasons it rejected them before. The District would need to prove that the District indicated to Anderson that its failure to accommodate her was to be permanent before the limitations period ran. The District has not done so, here. The District presents evidence that that Anderson was being placed on paid leave on February 2, 2015, rather than remaining at work as Anderson preferred. (UMF 42.) However, this fact does not establish that any decision was permanent. In the Court’s employees regularly are placed on medical leave, return to work, and again are placed on medical leave: the process may be cyclical and the fact that Anderson was placed on medical leave a single time does not establish what the District seeks to establish.

The Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED as to this statute of limitations argument.

  1. Jurisdiction of the Court

The District argues that DFEH failed to engage in a meaningful conference, conciliation, or persuasion prior to filing this case and thus that this Court does not have jurisdiction over this suit. (Motion at pp. 8-9.)

In Opposition, DFEH argues that the Court need only determine that DFEH communicated with the District “in some way” and tried to engage in a discussion to obtain a remedy prior to filing the action. (Oppo. at p. 10.)

In Mach Mining, LLC v. E.E.O.C. (2015) 575 U.S. 480, on which the District relies, the Supreme Court found that Title VII imposes a duty to “attempt conciliation of a discrimination charge prior to filing a lawsuit. (Id. at 486.) In Mach Mining, an employee filed a charge with the EEOC alleging employment discrimination of a private employer, Mach Mining, LLC on the basis of sex. (Id. at 484.) The EEOC investigated the matter and sent a letter to Mach Mining inviting them to participate in informal methods of dispute resolution and promising that an EEOC representative would contact them. (Ibid.) The record did not disclose what happened next, but a second letter a year later stated that the conciliation efforts occurred but were unsuccessful, and then EEOC sued Mach Mining. (Ibid.) The court found that the EEOC had wide latitude over the conciliation process but that the EEOC could not decline to make any attempt to conciliate a claim. (Id. at 488.) The standard is, to meet the statutory requirements, the EEOC “must tell the employer about the claim—essentially, what practice has harmed which person or class—and must provide the employer with an opportunity to discuss the matter in an effort to achieve voluntary compliance.” (Ibid.) In that case, the court found that the two letters, on their own, bookend the alleged conciliation process and “do not themselves fulfill the conciliation condition[.]” (Id. at 490.) However, the court also found that Mach Mining’s suggested investigation by the court was an excessively “deep dive into the conciliation process.” (Ibid.) The court concluded that the EEOC’s process “need only ‘endeavor’ to conciliate a claim without having to devote a set amount of time or resources to that project” and further “the attempt need not involve any specific steps or measures; rather, the Commission may use in each case whatever ‘informal’ means of ‘conference, conciliation, and persuasion’ it deems ‘appropriate’ and “the EEOC alone decides whether in the end to make an agreement or resort to litigation: The Commission may sue whenever ‘unable to secure’ terms ‘acceptable to the Commission.’” (Id. at 492.)

The facts in the instant case show a far greater level of conciliation process than that shown in Mach Mining. The District itself offers in its evidence that DFEH served a letter to the District on February 28, 2018 informing it of the results of its investigation and warning that it intended to file a civil complaint. (UMF ¶ 115-116.) The letter stated that mandatory mediation was required before DFEH filed a civil action and that a mediator would be contacting the district. (D. Evid., Exh. 6.) Further, the parties engaged in pre-filing mediation on or about March 19, 2018, but were unable to resolve the complaint. (Seldin Decl. ¶ 13.)

The District’s arguments that DFEH’s investigation was conducted by a law clerk in law school, and the fact that the investigation finding were not disclosed to the District (Motion at p. 9.) are not relevant for this analysis. The District does not contest that mediation took place. Mediation is a significantly greater process than simply mailing two letters, as was the case in Mach Mining. The offer and participation in mediation was an attempt at conciliation and DFEH was able to determine along whether it was to resort to litigation.

Accordingly, Summary Judgment is DENIED as to this argument for lack of jurisdiction.

  1. First Cause of Action – Disability Discrimination

To establish a discrimination claim under FEHA, an employee must prove the following elements: “(1) he was a member of a protected class, (2) he was qualified for the position he sought or was performing competently in the position he held, (3) he suffered an adverse employment action, such as termination, demotion, or denial of an available job, and (4) some other circumstance suggests discriminatory motive.” (Dinslage v. City and County of San Francisco (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 368, 378.)  The first element of the prima facie case of disability discrimination under FEHA is that the employee must show that he suffered from a disability. (Nealy v. City of Santa Monica (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 359, 378.)

Here, the District argues that DFEH cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination because it had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its decisions. (Motion at pp. 10-14.) The District also asserts a conclusory argument that Plaintiff has no evidence that she suffered any adverse action. (Motion at p . 13.)

  1. Adverse Employment Action

With regards to the no-adverse-action argument, the District offers evidence that Anderson was paid full wages and benefits from 2015-17, while she was out on full medical leave. (UMF 125-126.) In Opposition, DFEH argues that the fact that she was paid, does not mean that her employment was not materially and adversely affected, and that the leave itself was an adverse action. (Oppo. at p. 15.) Further, DFEH asserts its own evidence that reasonable alternatives were not offered, and Anderson was forced to exhaust her accrued vacation time, accumulated discretionary leave, and sick leave, and accumulated compensatory time off between 2015 and 2016 that would not have otherwise been required to use if a reasonable accommodation to remain at work could have been offered. (AMF 41, Anderson Decl. ¶ 18.) Further, Anderson used disability payments to continue to receive her paycheck. (Anderson Decl. ¶ 21.)

Adverse employment actions are not limited to termination, rather, such action must “materially affect the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment to be actionable, the determination of whether a particular action or course of conduct rises to the level of actionable conduct should take into account the unique circumstances of the affected employee as well as the workplace context of the claim.” (Whitehall v. County of San Bernardino (2017) 17 Cal.App.5th 352, 367, review denied (Feb. 14, 2018).)  Placing an employee on leave has been held to be an adverse employment action.  (Id.)  

The Court agrees with DFEH that the loss of vacation and sick accrual, as well as the placing on medical leave itself, are triable issues of material fact as to an adverse employment action.

  1. Non-Discriminatory Reasons

The District also argues that it had non-discriminatory reasons for its decisions regarding Anderson, and that DFEH cannot establish that these reasons were pretextual. (Motion at pp. 13-14.) However, the Motion and proffered evidence do not actually give a non-discriminatory reason. The offered evidence establishes that Anderson used her hands on her keyboard for 6-7 hours per day, that she could not continue working 4 hour per day, that her physical condition was worsening (at an unknown date), and that Anderson’s position required her usage of Datatel (without explanation of how Datatel is used). (UMF 29-30, 36-27, 52.) Despite this list of facts, the District does not actually argue for this Court its reason for placing Anderson on full leave versus another reasonable accommodation.

The District contends in conclusory fashion that “Because the District’s decision were based on Work Status Reports that Anderson provided to the District with work restrictions mandated by Anderson’s doctor, Plaintiff cannot establish any pretext sufficient to overcome summary judgment.” (Motion at p.14.) However, although the District has provided evidence that Anderson presented such a Work Status Report that Anderson’s abilities were limited (UMF 6), Anderson also presented a Work Status Report that stated she had no restrictions (UMF 9), and the District is not clear in its timeline. Even more importantly, the District presents zero evidence regarding its reason for the decision to place Anderson on leave and the time that the decisions was made, and rather expects the Court to connect the dots with the benefit of hindsight.

Accordingly, there are triable issues of material fact on this cause of action. The Motion for Summary Adjudication is DENIED as to the First Cause of Action.

  1. Second Cause of Action – Failure to Engage in the Interactive Process; Third Cause of Action – Failure to Accommodate

Government Code section 12940, subsection (n) “declares it an unlawful employment practice for an employer ‘to fail to engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective reasonable accommodations, if any, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation by an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition.’” (Nadaf-Rahrov v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 952, 961–962.)  A prerequisite to liability under section 12940, subsection (n) is whether a reasonable accommodation is available, and the burden is on the employee to prove so.  (Nadaf-Rahrov v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., supra, 166 Cal.App.4th at 984.)  

The District argues that it engaged in the interactive process with Anderson and that her pre-March 30, 2016 claims are time-barred. (Motion at p. 15.)

As addressed above, the pre-March 30, 2016 are not time-barred. As to the interactive process, the District presents evidence that on January 29, 2015, Anderson had an interactive process meeting with the Human Resources manager, Yvette Barrios, and that after meeting Barrios sent Anderson a letter stating that they mutually agreed that Anderson would go on 100% leave. (UMF 38-39.) This is sufficient for a prima facie case. The burden now shifts to DFEH to present a prima facie case as to the existence of a triable issue of fact.

To prevail on a claim for failure to engage in the interactive process, an “employee must identify a reasonable accommodation that would have been available at the time the interactive process should have occurred.” (Scotch v. Art Institute of California 1018.)

In Opposition, DFEH argues that the District “offers no evidence of what specific efforts it made to accommodate Anderson.” (Oppo. at p. 17.) The District, itself, presented evidence that Anderson cried at her meeting with Barrios, and that the District was unable to accommodate her. (UMF 41-42.)

DFEH presents evidence in opposition that in 2014 Anderson asked for various accommodations including if she could work her shifts over a 6-day period or to work a split-shift to give her arm a rest, however, the District did not respond. (AMF 16.) DFEH also presents evidence that the accommodation that she was actually given in 2014 was to reduce her workday from 8 hours to 4 hours per day, however that alternatives were not discussed, and her workload was not reduced such that she was expected to complete 8 hours-worth of work in 4 hours. (AMF 18, 21.) DFEH offers that at the January 29, 2015 meeting, Barrios informed Anderson that they could no longer accommodate her four-hour workday, but did not discuss any alternatives or consider transferring her to a vacant position. (AMF 40, Anderson Decl. ¶ 18.) Further, in Barrios’ deposition, she admitted that the District did not consider any accommodations other than putting Anderson on leave. (P. Evid., Exh. Q, 103:7-25[1].)

Thus, the Court finds that the District has failed to prove that there are no triable issues of facts as to whether it engaged in the interactive process or whether it failed to accommodate Anderson’s disability. Anderson proposed various accommodations early-on in her injury, which the District allegedly ignored, and then the District allegedly failed to consider any accommodations other than medical leave.

Accordingly, the Motion for Summary Adjudication is DENIED as to the Second and Third Causes of Action.

  1. Fourth Cause of Action – Retaliation

FEHA makes it unlawful for the employer to discharge or discriminate against an employee because he or she has “opposed any practices forbidden under this part or because the person has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this part.” (Gov. Code, § 12940, subd. (h).) “To establish a prima facie case of retaliation under FEHA, a plaintiff must show (1) he or she engaged in a ‘protected activity,’ (2) the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action, and (3) a causal link existed between the protected activity and the employer's action. [Citations]” (Nealy v. City of Santa Monicasupra, 234 Cal.App.4th at 380.)  

“Once an employee establishes a prima facie case, the employer is required to offer a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the adverse employment action. (Morgan v. Regents of University of California (2000) 88 Cal.App.4th 52, 68.) If the employer produces a legitimate reason for the adverse employment action, the presumption of retaliation “drops out of the picture,” and the burden shifts back to the employee to prove intentional retaliation. (Ibid.)” (Yanowitz v. L'Oreal USA, Inc. (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1028, 1042.)

  1. Protected Activity

The Complaint alleges that Anderson complained to the District that their denial of her accommodations and forced leave of absence were improper. (Compl. ¶ 59.) It further alleges that upon return from leave, Anderson’s supervisor “unnecessarily changed her work scheduled, required her to perform menial and unwarranted tasks, and instructed other employees not to interact with Ms. Anderson.” (Compl. ¶ 59.)

In the instant Motion, the District argues that DFEH’s claims cannot support a retaliation cause of action because the allegations are minor and trivial and cannot constitute an adverse employment action, and that DFEH cannot establish a material fact establishing a causal connection between any purported protected activity and any changes in the workplace. (Motion at p. 18.)

In Opposition, DFEH contends that when Anderson returned to work, Anderson requested accommodations for her current restrictions, but the District denied them. (AMF 69, 75-78.) Further, her files, records, spreadsheets, computer, and ergonomic accommodations were removed, and the ergonomic accommodations were not replaced. (AMF 86-87.) In Reply, the District argues that that “the District was not obligated under the law to grant Anderson what was essentially a request for indefinite leave. Denying such request is not retaliation.” (Reply at p. 15.)

As a preliminary issue, requesting a reasonable accommodation on the basis of a disability is considered a protected activity. (Gov. Code, § 12940(m)(2)Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc. (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 1028, 1049.) 

  1. Non-Discriminatory Reasons

The District presents evidence that the allegedly retaliatory behavior (the missing files, records, computer, and ergonomic equipment, as well as the behavior of Anderson’s supervisor) had a non-discriminatory reason. The District submits the deposition of Anderson who admitted that her supervisor, Dr. Dominguez, was rude to everyone and that he never wrote her up or disciplined her. (UMF 82-85.)

In Opposition, DFEH does not present significant evidence to the contrary, offering that the administrative assistant who replaced Anderson while she was on leave was not required to take meeting minutes, while Dominguez asked Anderson to take meeting minutes. (UMF 88; AMF 55.) DFEH also presents evidence that the schedules of the administrative assistants changed a year before she returned, but the temporary worker in her place did not have to change her schedule, and the schedule was inconvenient for Anderson. (UMF 96-98.)

The Court agrees with the District that DFEH is unable establish that the District retaliated against her or that the District had non-retaliatory reasons for its behavior. Much of the alleged retaliation is not alleged or proven to have been targeted directly at Anderson. Further, the Court finds the alleged retaliatory behavior to not rise to the level of adverse employment action.

“Not every change in the conditions of employment, however, constitutes an adverse employment action. ‘A change that is merely contrary to the employee's interests or not to the employee's liking is insufficient. Workplaces are rarely idyllic retreats, and the mere fact that an employee is displeased by an employer's act or omission does not elevate that act or omission to the level of a materially adverse employment action. If every minor change in working conditions or trivial action were a materially adverse action then any action that an irritable, chip-on-the-shoulder employee did not like would form the basis of a discrimination suit. The plaintiff must show the employer’s ... actions had a detrimental and substantial effect on the plaintiff's employment.’” (Malais v. Los Angeles City Fire Dept. (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 350, 357–358.)

Accordingly, the Motion for Summary Adjudication is GRANTED as to the Fourth Cause of Action.

  1. Fifth Cause of Action – Failure to Prevent Discrimination

An actionable claim under section 12940, subdivision (k) is dependent on a claim of actual discrimination: “Employers should not be held liable to employees for failure to take necessary steps to prevent such conduct, except where the actions took place and were not prevented.” (Scotch v. Art Institute of California (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 986, 1021.)

Because the Court has denied the motion for summary judgment as to the cause of action for disability discrimination, the Court must also deny summary judgment as to this cause of action for failure to prevent discrimination.

Accordingly, the Motion for Summary Adjudication is DENIED as to the Fifth Cause of Action.

DATED: March 2, 2020

_____________________________HoHon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court


[1] “Q. Did the district consider any other accommodations other than putting Ms. Anderson on a leave of absence?

MR. PITTS: Vague and ambiguous.

THE WITNESS: No.

BY MS. SELDIN:

Q. Why?

A. The only other option that could have been provided to Ms. Anderson as an accommodation would be to transfer her into another department. And based off of her work restrictions, whether she worked for the performing arts center or whether she worked for another department, the work restrictions would still be in place.

Q: Did you ever look for alternative positions for her as an accommodation?

A: That would not be my responsibility. That would be something that would have occurred through Cara Odell.” (P. Evid., Exh. Q, 103:7-25.)

h

Case Number: BC699467    Hearing Date: February 07, 2020    Dept: 78

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles

Department 78

DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING,

Plaintiff,

vs.

SANTA CLARITA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, et al.;

Defendants.

Case No.:

BC699467

Hearing Date:

February 7, 2020

[TENTATIVE] RULING RE:

Plaintiff department of fair employment and housing’s motion for leave to file first amended complaint

Plaintiff Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint is DENIED.

Factual Background

This is an action for disability discrimination. The Complaint alleges as follows. Plaintiff Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) brings this action on behalf of real party in interest Laura Anderson. (“Anderson.”) (Complaint ¶ 1.)

Anderson began employment with defendant Santa Clarita Community College District (“District”) in 2006, and works there as an administrative assistant. (Complaint ¶ 12.) In 2013 she sustained an injury similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and was placed on work restrictions. (Complaint ¶ 13.) A flare-up in May 2014 again restricted her ability to type to a limit of four hours per day. (Complaint ¶ 13.) The District agreed her work to four hours per day, but did not reduce her work-load to compensate; it also brought on an assistant to help Anderson, but the assistant was assigned to unrelated tasks, and did not reduce her workload. (Complaint ¶ 14.) When Anderson asked for a transfer to an alternative position, she was told the District did not grant such accommodations. (Complaint. ¶ 13.)

In January 2015, the District’s HR Manager met with Anderson and informed her that she could no longer work on a reduced schedule, and that she was being placed on leave effective immediately. (Complaint ¶ 14.) The District did not consider Anderson’s requests for an alternative accommodation. (complaint ¶ 14.)

14 months later, in April 2016, Anderson was notified that she would soon exhaust all her paid accrued leave, and that if she was unable to work, she would be separated from service. (Complaint ¶ 15.) Anderson responded by requesting an unpaid leave of absence, and reiterating that the District had wrongfully denied her accommodations in the preceding two years. (Complaint ¶ 15.) The District denied her request without explanation and in departure from District policy. (Complaint ¶ 16.)

In May 2016, Anderson’s doctor released her to return to work with no restrictions, and she returned to her regular position, but under new supervisors. (Complaint ¶ 17.) But her supervisor inexplicably changed Anderson’s work duties to make her job more difficult, berated her when she failed to perform her exacting new duties, and directed other employees not to associate with her. (Complaint ¶ 17.) When Anderson complained of the differential treatment, no action was taken. (Complaint ¶ 18.)

Anderson is now on leave of absence due to stress from her mistreatment. (Complaint ¶ 19.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

DFEH filed the Complaint on March 27, 2018, alleging five causes of action:

  1. Disability Discrimination

  2. Failure to Engage in the Interactive Process

  3. Failure to Accommodate Disability

  4. Retaliation

  5. Failure to Prevent Discrimination

On December 31, 2020, DFEH filed the instant Motion for Leave to file a First Amended Complaint.

On January 27, 2020, the District filed an Opposition.

On January 31, 2020, DFEH filed a Reply.

DISCUSSION

  1. MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT

Code Civ. Proc. section 473 subd. (a)(1) states that:  

The court may, in furtherance of justice, and on any terms as may be proper, allow a party to amend any pleading or proceeding by adding or striking out the name of any party, or by correcting a mistake in the name of a party, or a mistake in any other respect; and may, upon like terms, enlarge the time for answer or demurrer. The court may likewise, in its discretion, after notice to the adverse party, allow, upon any terms as may be just, an amendment to any pleading or proceeding in other particulars; and may upon like terms allow an answer to be made after the time limited by this code. 

“The trial court has discretion to permit or deny the amendment of the complaint, but instances justifying the court's denial of leave to amend are rare.” (Armenta ex rel. City of Burbank v. Mueller Co. (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 636, 642.)  

“Although courts are bound to apply a policy of great liberality in permitting amendments to the complaint at any stage of the proceedings, up to and including trial [Citations], this policy should be applied only ‘[w]here no prejudice is shown to the adverse party . . .’ [Citation.] A different result is indicated ‘[w]here inexcusable delay and probable prejudice to the opposing party’ is shown. [Citation.]” (Magpali v. Farmers Group, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 471, 487.)  

Pursuant to California Rule of Court Rule 3.1324, “[a] motion to amend a pleading before trial must: (1)Include a copy of the proposed amendment or amended pleading, which must be serially numbered to differentiate it from previous pleadings or amendments; (2) State what allegations in the previous pleading are proposed to be deleted, if any, and where, by page, paragraph, and line number, the deleted allegations are located; and (3)State what allegations are proposed to be added to the previous pleading, if any, and where, by page, paragraph, and line number, the additional allegations are located.” 

Here, DFEH is seeking leave to file a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). The FAC seeks to amend, primarily to “add allegations of events that occurred after the filing of the civil complaint[.]” (Motion at p. 6.) DFEH argues that the amendments will not prejudice the District because they are based on information gathered by both parties in discovery, and the amendments will not require additional discovery or continue the trial date. (Motion at p. 7.) DFEH further argues that the amendments are necessary because the District filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on November 26, 2019 and that DFEH cannot resist the motion based on issues not raised in the pleadings. (Motion at pp. 7-8.)

In Opposition, the District argues that DFEH delayed too long to bring this Motion. (Oppo. at p. 5.) The District contends that the amendments are based on information that DFEH learned in June 2018 and August 2018, and that DFEH has not explained why it delayed in bringing forward these new facts. (Oppo. at pp. 5-6.) The District argues that the amendments will prejudice it because trial is set for April 7, 2020, but will be delayed if the Motion is granted because the District will need to be able to file an Answer, its Motion for Summary Judgment will be vacated, it will need to conduct further discovery, and it will need to be permitted statutory time to file another Motion for Summary Judgment. (Oppo. at p. 7.)

In Reply, DFEH argues that a new Motion for Summary Judgment will not requirement any additional research or arguments. (Reply at p. 6.) DFEH contends that its motion is not so late in the process that it must be denied. (Reply at p. 9.)

DFEH did not address the key question, which is why it waited from June 2018 (at the discovery of the new facts) until December 31, 2019 to bring this Motion. This question is required to be answered by the California rules of Court.

A Motion for Leave to amend, in addition to including a copy of the proposed amendments, must include a supporting declaration stating, “(1) The effect of the amendment; (2) Why the amendment is necessary and proper; (3) When the facts giving rise to the amended allegations were discovered; and (4) The reasons why the request for amendment was not made earlier.” (CRC Rule 3.1324, subd. (b).)

Here, DFEH has declared that the proposed amendments clarify allegations in the First and Fourth Causes of Action by adding new information, and make non-substantive changes. (Seldin Decl. ¶ 2.) DFEH contends that their motion is timely and that the changes are “necessary to allow for the resolution of all disputed matters between the parties and to enable the DFEH to obtain appropriate relief should it prevail in the present action.” (Seldin Decl. ¶ 4.) However, this declaration does not answer, or attempt to answer, the required third and fourth elements of Rule 3.1324, subd. (b), the facts of when the information was discovered and why the request was not brought sooner.

Further, despite DFEH’s contention that the District will not be prejudiced, the District has a pending Motion for Summary Judgment. Should the District desire to re-file the Motion to address an amended complaint, the rules of Civil Procedure statutorily require the District to file a Motion for Summary Judgment, effectively, 105 days before trial. (CCP 473c.) Based on a trial date of April 7, 2020, the Motion was required to have been filed in December 2019, a date which has passed. Accordingly, the trial date will need to be delayed by over a month to allow the District the statutorily required time to file the Motion, despite DFEH’s contentions. This is a clear prejudice to the District.

Accordingly, while there is generally great liberality in granting pleading amendments, DFEH has failed to provide the required explanation for its 18-month delay in bringing this Motion, particularly in light of prejudice to the District that will result in a delayed trial date and necessity to re-file a Motion for Summary Judgment.

The Motion for Leave to Amend is DENIED.

DATED: February 7, 2020

_____________________________

Hon. Robert S. Draper

Judge of the Superior Court