• Dean Royer

December 2020 employment law decisions

Sexual harassment claim may be supported by incidents from different points in time and conduct directed at third parties.

December 31, 2020, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, Jennifer Christian v. Umpqua Bank: The trial court dismissed Christian’s sexual harassment case (summary judgment) brought under the federal Title VII and Washington state law after determining no reasonable juror could conclude that the harassment by a customer directed at Christian was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. The Ninth Circuit concluded to the contrary after finding that the trial court should have considered evidence of the customer’s behavior during two different periods of time (not just one); incidents in which Christian did not have direct, personal interactions with the customer; and interactions between the customer and third persons.


Failure to engage in an interactive process claim requires reasonable accommodation that would have been available.

December 29, 2020, Second District Court of Appeal, Anahit Shirvanyan v. Los Angeles Community College District: A jury found in favor of Shirvanyan for claims of failure to provide a reasonable accommodation and engage in an interactive process for two injuries. On appeal, the Second District decided that in order to prevail on an interactive process claim the employee must identify a reasonable accommodation that would have been available at the time the interactive process should have occurred. Applying this rule to the case, the appellate court determined that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that a reasonable accommodation was available for only one of the two injuries.

Notice of representative action only requires a description of the general basis for the claim.

December 21, 2020, Third District Court of Appeal, Miguel Angel Rojas-Cifuentes v. Superior Court: Rojas-Cifuentes brought a representative action against his former employer, American Modular Systems, Inc., under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) seeking to recover civil penalties for labor violations. The trial court dismissed the PAGA claim (summary judgment) on grounds Rojas-Cifuentes did not provide sufficient notice of the facts and theories of the claim to the Labor Workforce and Development Agency (LWDA) prior to filing suit. The court of appeal reversed, finding that Rojas-Cifuentes made sufficient allegations that notified American Modular and the LWDA of the general basis for the claim.

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