Wed. Jun 16th, 2021

Appellant Department of Rehabilitation sought review of a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which awarded respondent former employee damages of $ 1.5 million on her claims for race and age discrimination in violation of Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 12940 & 12941 and for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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Overview

Respondent former employee received a general award of $ 1.5 million for race and age discrimination and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (GFFD Covenant). The court affirmed, rejecting appellant Department of Rehabilitation’s arguments that respondent had not exhausted administrative remedies, that Cal. Gov’t Code § 815 created immunity, and that workers’ compensation provided an exclusive remedy. The court agreed with appellant that the GFFD Covenant claim was improper because the only remedy lay within civil service procedures that respondent had not pursued. Regarding exclusion of appellant’s former employee, also respondent’s former supervisor, as an “officer or employee” designated under Cal. Evid. Code § 777(b) for presence throughout trial, the court held that a former employee did not qualify as such a designee. The “continuing violation” doctrine defeated appellant’s statute of limitations attack. Finally, the court found that the jury had been properly instructed on the shifting burdens in discrimination cases and that substantial evidence on the discrimination claims, separate from the GFFD claim, supported the verdict amount.

Outcome

Although holding that respondent former employee’s claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing should not have been submitted to the jury, the court affirmed the $ 1.5 million award against respondent Department of Rehabilitation because that general verdict was independently supported by substantial evidence on respondent’s race and age discrimination claims.

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