Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Flait v. North American Watch Corp.

Retaliation Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), an employer may not “discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because the person opposed any practices forbidden under [FEHA] or because the person has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under [FEHA].”  Cal. Gov. Code § 12940(h). 
FEHA retaliation claims follow the McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting framework.  Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA, Inc., 36 Cal.4th 1028, 1042 (2005).  To establish a prima facie case for retaliation, the employee must establish that (1) they engaged in an activity protected under FEHA, such as filing a discrimination claim; (2) the employer subjected them to adverse employment action; and (3) there was a causal connection between the employee’s protected activity and the employer’s adverse action.  Id.  Once the employee has established a prima facie case for retaliation, the burden shifts to the employer to provide a legitimate, nonretaliatory explanation for the adverse employment action.  Id.  Should the employer successfully rebut, the burden shifts back to the employee to prove intentional retaliation.  Id. 


Preemption and Collective Bargaining Agreements

To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a complaint must state sufficient facts, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Chavez v. United States, 683 F. 3d 1102, 1108-1109 (9th Cir. 2012). Thus, a defendant is not entitled to judgment on the pleadings if the complaint raises issues of fact which, if proved, would support recovery. General Conference Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Seventh-Day Adventist Congregational Church, 887 F. 2d 228, 230 (9th Cir. 1989).


Whistleblowing and Hazardous Working Conditions

To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must show that (1) they engaged in a protected activity, (2) that they were thereafter subjected to adverse employment action by their employer, and (3) there was a causal link between the two.  Iwekaogwu v. City of Los Angeles, 75 Cal.App.4th 803, 814 (1999), quoting Flait v. North American Watch Corp., 3 Cal.App.4th 467, 476 (1992).

In order to be protected against discharge, a complainant need only make a good faith complaint about working conditions that they believes to be unsafe. Cabesuela v. Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 68 Cal.App.4th 101, 1009 (1998) [emphasis added].  An employer is prohibited from retaliating against a complainant who made “a bona fide oral or written complaint to [their] employer of unsafe working conditions, or work practices, in [their] employment or place of employment.” Labor Code § 6310(b) [emphasis added].