California Court Determines Employee’s Age Discrimination Lawsuit Should Proceed, Despite Lower Court’s Ruling

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a California age discrimination lawsuit. The lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, finding that the statute of limitations did not toll, and the plaintiff’s case was filed too late. However, on appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, allowing the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was employed as a sheet metal worker with the defendant employer. During his tenure there, the plaintiff received “exemplary” evaluations. However, on December 3, 2013, the employer fired the plaintiff.

After the plaintiff filed a grievance, it was discovered that the employees hired to replace him were all under 30 years of age. The company responded by agreeing to rehire the plaintiff, but refused to pay him back wages.

In June 2017, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging age discrimination under a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The first complaint was dismissed because the CBA did not cover age discrimination claims, and the plaintiff filed a second complaint. In his second complaint, the plaintiff raised an age discrimination and wrongful termination claim, as well as a claim asserting the employer failed to take “all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and/or harassment in violation of FEHA.”

The employer claimed that the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred, because they were filed after the applicable statutes of limitations. In turn, the plaintiff responded that the statutes of limitations should be tolled while he was going through the company’s internal grievance procedure. The trial court granted the employer’s demurrer, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court held that the lower court erred in finding that the plaintiff’s second amended complaint could not be subject to equitable tolling. The court explained that the plaintiff filed his initial grievance in a timely manner, and that the employer could not show that it was prejudiced in any delay in the proceedings caused by the plaintiff’s use of the internal grievance procedure. The court also found that the plaintiff acted in good faith throughout the process, and was not intentionally trying to delay the proceedings.

Notably, the court did not find that equitable tolling applied for certain, only that there was insufficient to conclude that it did not apply at the demurrer stage. Thus, the court remanded the case with instructions to allow the plaintiff’s case to proceed. However, if the trial court determined additional evidence necessitated the granting of the employer’s motion, the lower court could do so.

Are You Involved in a California Employment Dispute?

If you were recently fired, and you believe that your employer may have engaged in illegal employment discrimination, reach out to the California employment law attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm, APC. At The Nourmand Law Firm, we have been representing  employees in all types of discrimination and wage-and-hour lawsuits for more than 20 years. We have the experience, dedication, and skill necessary to help you effectively bring your case against a discriminatory former employer. To learn more, call 310-553-3600, or you can reach us through our online form.

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