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Court Denied Employer’s Request To Change Venue In FEHA Case From The Employee’s Home Office To The Company’s Office
In October 2018, Eleanor Malloy was hired by the parent company Comprehensive Print Group as an administrative assistant. During her first 18 months at the company, her supervisor, Spencer, made offensive and denigrating comments to her based on her gender and expressed an inappropriate interest in her personal life.
On March 17, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was underway. Malloy and other employees of the company began working remotely. That fall, Malloy became pregnant and gave birth to her son the following March 2021. In April 2021, Malloy’s supervisor requested her to work in person two-to-three times a week starting in May 2021. Malloy replied she could not work in person for at least one month due to childcare needs. The company terminated Mallory for not returning to in-person work. Mallory filed a complaint for pregnancy and gender discrimination, sex- and gender-based harassment, interference with protected pregnancy leave, retaliation, and wrongful termination, among other claims. She filed her claim in Los Angeles County, where she lived.
On November 9, 2021, the company moved for a change of venue to Orange County, where Malloy’s employer-provided office was located. The company argued all the unlawful conduct alleged occurred in Orange County, all records were kept there, and Malloy’s employment was based there. Malloy opposed, arguing that Los Angeles County was the proper venue for her pregnancy discrimination interference and retaliation causes of action because she was working from home or otherwise at home on protected pregnancy leave when the unlawful conduct occurred.
The superior court agreed with the company and granted the change of venue to Orange County. Malloy petitioned for a writ of mandate with the California Court of Appeal to challenge the venue change.
The Court of Appeal sided with Malloy. First, the Court noted that the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) authorizes an aggrieved party to file a FEHA action in the county in which the alleged unlawful employment practice was committed or in which the employee would have worked but for the unlawful practices. Second, the Court noted a California Supreme Court precedent that supported Mallory’s position. The Court noted that the Legislature’s decision to afford a wide choice of venue in FEHA cases “maximizes the ability of persons aggrieved by employment discrimination to seek relief from the courts….”
Based on these facts, the Court found a venue in Los Angeles County to be proper.
Malloy v. Superior Court (Comprehensive Print Group), 2022 WL 4298371.