Former Teacher’s Claims Were Time Barred And Failed To Comply With The Government Claims Act

CATEGORY: Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education
DATE: Jun 04, 2024

John Sandy Campbell worked as a Resource Specialist Teacher from 2015 to 2017 at the Chavez Social Justice Humanitas Academy, which is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.  She was dismissed in 2017 for excessive absences, among other reasons.  The Commission on Professional Competence upheld her dismissal and found that she was absent 52 days and partially absent/tardy 97 times over two school years.

In 2021, Campbell sued the District, arguing that the District racially discriminated against her and retaliated against her for whistleblowing, in violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 and 1106 and Government Code section 12940 (the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)).

The District demurred, asking the trial court to dismiss Campbell’s complaint.  The trial court sided with the District and dismissed Campbell’s amended complaint without further leave to amend.  The trial court held that the one-year statute of limitations described in Government Code section 12965 barred Campbell’s whistleblower retaliation claim.  The trial court further held that Campbell’s could not succeed on her racial discrimination claim because she did not abide by the Government Claims Act’s claim presentation requirement to bring a lawsuit against a public entity, which is described in Government Code section 911.2.

Campbell appealed the trial court’s dismissal. The court of appeal agreed with the trial court.  On appeal, Campbell argued that she previously submitted racial discrimination and whistleblower retaliation claims and had therefore “substantially complied” with the claim presentation requirement. The court of appeal found that, even if they were to assume the law allowed for substantial compliance, Campbell did not demonstrate that she substantially complied with the claim presentation requirement. For Campbell’s racial discrimination complaint, the record showed that she had only made a pre-complaint inquiry to the California Civil Rights Department (“CRD”) in August 2017.  She did not show that any of her complaints went to the right people or contained the right information.  Additionally, her amended complaint did not plead facts alleging that she had complied with the claim presentation requirement.

The court of appeal further found that Campbell’s whistleblower retaliation complaint was time barred.  Campbell had initiated a complaint with the CRD in 2017. The CRD investigated the complaint, found insufficient evidence, and closed the case. The CRD issued Campbell a right-to-sue notice dated October 9, 2018, which told her she had one year to file a lawsuit.  Campbell did not sue until September 2021.

The court of appeal noted that Campbell’s appellate brief did not argue that any amendment could cure the defects in her complaint.  The court of appeal held that the trial court properly sustained the District’s demurrer without leave to amend. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgement and awarded costs to the District.

Campbell v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist. (May 1, 2024, No. B320442) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2024 Cal. App. LEXIS 326].

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