Claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and Unruh Act discrimination based on third party offensive comments in presentation to employer.

May 12, 2021, Fourth Appellate District, Robert Smith v. BP Lubricants USA Inc.: Smith sued BP and one of its employees after the employee made several comments during a presentation at Smith’s former employer, Jiffy Lube, that Smith considered racist and offensive. The trial court dismissed the case (demurrer). On appeal, the Fourth District affirmed the dismissal of Smith’s harassment claim, which was based on an aiding and abetting theory. The appellate court decided that Smith did not and could not allege that the defendants knew of Jiffy Lube’s alleged harassment against Smith, or that defendants knew the conduct was unlawful or gave Jiffy Lube assistance or encouragement. But the Fourth District reversed with respect to Smith’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim after finding that the BP employee’s alleged conduct of making three offensive comments in front of an audience of 50 could be found to be extreme and outrageous. The appellate court also reversed with respect to Smith’s discrimination claim under the Unruh Act after deciding that the Act covers claims based on verbal harassment and that the BP employee acted as a business establishment when he made his alleged comments.

Case alleging adverse actions of reassignment and termination is not subject to SLAPP law.

April 29, 2021, Second Appellate District, Junnie Verceles v. Los Angeles Unified School District: The trial court dismissed Verceles’s case (SLAPP motion) after finding his employment discrimination and retaliation claims were based on the District’s investigation of his alleged misconduct. The court of appeal reversed on grounds Vereceles’s case was based on the District’s decisions to reassign him and terminate him.

  • Dean Royer

University of California is not subject to California’s minimum wage law.

April 23, 2021, Fourth Appellate District, Guivini Gomez v. The Regents of the University of California: Gomez sued her former employer claiming the Regents failed to pay her the required minimum wages for all hours she worked resulting from a time-keeping procedure of rounding hours and deducting 30-minute meal breaks. The trial court dismissed the case (demurrer). On appeal, the Fourth District decided that California’s minimum wage law does not apply to the Regents.

  • Dean Royer

Jury findings in a first trial do not have preclusive effect on a retrial.

March 18, 2021, Fourth Appellate District, Contreras-Velazquez v. Family Health Centers of San Diego, Inc.: Contreras-Velazquez sued her former employer alleging disability discrimination. A jury found Family Health not liable but the trial court ordered a new trial. At the retrial, a jury found in favor of Contreras-Velazquez. Family Health appealed asserting that the findings by the first jury precluded Contreras-Velazquez from prevailing at the retrial. The Fourth District concluded that the first jury’s findings were not a final adjudication of any issue and, therefore, did not preclude Contreras-Velazquez at retrial.

CSU is subject to representative claims that are based on statutes that provide for penalties.

March 5, 2021, First District Court of Appeal, Thomas Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University: Sargent sued CSU and his supervisor for the way he was treated after raising environmental concerns at Sonoma State University. A jury found in his favor on claims alleging unlawful retaliation and under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) based on violation of California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act. CSU appealed contending it is not subject to PAGA. The court of appeal decided that CSU is not categorically immune from PAGA penalties and can be subject to PAGA claims when the statutes upon which they are premised provide for penalties.