LCW Wins Summary Judgment For City In Age Discrimination Action

Category: Fire Watch
Date: Oct 4, 2019 11:03 AM

In a case handled by Jennifer Rosner, Lee Heard, and Emanuela Tala,  LCW helped secure summary judgment for a city in a firefighter’s age discrimination lawsuit. 

A firefighter sued the city, alleging that the city failed to promote him to Fire Captain in 2009, 2013, 2015, and 2017 due to his age in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). 

On summary judgment, LCW argued on behalf of the city that the statute of limitations barred all claims arising out of promotional decisions occurring before August 27, 2017 – one year prior to the filing of the firefighter’s complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”).  Under the FEHA, a person must file a DFEH complaint within one year of the act or omission alleged to constitute discrimination, harassment or retaliation.  Except for certain limited circumstances, failure to timely file a DFEH complaint bars a civil action.  The court agreed with LCW’s argument that no exceptions applied, and held that any promotional decisions that occurred prior to August 27, 2017, could not form the basis for the firefighter’s lawsuit.

With regard to promotional decisions that occurred between August 27, 2017, and August 27, 2018, the court agreed that the city had provided legitimate business reasons, that were not pretextual, for promoting other candidates.  The court also emphasized that of the 13 individuals promoted between 2013 and 2019, seven were over the age of 40, and 11 outscored the firefighter during the promotional process.

NOTE:

This case illustrates the importance of an in-depth understanding of the FEHA, including its specific procedural requirements, in successfully defending public entities in discrimination actions.  This case also illustrates how important it is for a public agency to be able to identify legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for its employment actions and decisions.  LCW is pleased to help the city obtain a complete victory without the need for a trial.  

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