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Public policy claim gives new life to bias suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Under California state law, an em­­ployee can allege a public policy wrongful discharge claim against her employer for some form of discrimination even if she can’t pursue a direct discrimination claim.

Recent case: Olga, who was over age 40, was an office assistant for a dermatologist. She claimed the owner called her names, criticized her weight and suggested she was too old to be seen in the office. When he demoted her to billing clerk, she had a panic attack, went home and never returned.

She sued, alleging constructive discharge and age discrimination.

Because she missed a filing deadline, she could not sue under the Fair Housing and Employment Act. But the court let her bring an age claim alleging her discharge violated public policy because targeting her due to her age would otherwise violate FEHA. (Figueroa-Manjang v. Behroozan, Court of Appeal of California, 2017)

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