Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Poland v. Chertoff

Argument for Denial of Summary Judgement in a Retaliation Case

The plaintiff’s prima facie burden in a retaliation case is to (1) show he or she engaged in a protected activity, (2) the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action, and (3) a causal link exists between the protected activity and the employer’s action. (McRae v. Dept. of Corr. & Rehab. (2006) 142 Cal. App. 4th 377, 386). Once the plaintiff has established a prima facie case of retaliation, the defendant must provide a legitimate, nonretaliatory explanation. The burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to show this explanation is merely a pretext for the retaliation. (Morgan v. Regents of University of California (2000) 88 Cal.App.4th 52, 68–9.)
An employer is prohibited from retaliating against a complainant who made “a bona fide oral or written complaint to his employer of unsafe working conditions, or work practices, in his employment or place of employment.” (Labor Code § 6310(b).) In order to be protected against discharge, a complainant need only make a good faith complaint about working conditions that he believes to be unsafe. (Cabesuela v. Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 101, 109; Hentzel v. Singer Co. (1982) 138 Cal.App.3d 290, 299.)


Establishing Discriminatory Motive

California has adopted the three-stage burden-shifting test established by the United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (1973) 411 U.S. 792 for trying claims of discrimination. Guz v. Bechtel Nat. Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 317, 354. The so-called “McDonnell Douglas” test “reflects the principle that direct evidence of intentional discrimination is rare, and that such claims must usually be proved circumstantially.” Id. The first step in the test is for Gonzales to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The particular elements of a prima facie case “may vary depending on the particular facts.” Id.


Title VII and Race Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (United States Code, title 42, section 2000e et seq.) makes it unlawful for an employer to “discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race . . . .” The standard for summary judgment in discrimination cases under Title VII is the burden shifting test outlined in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).