In a recent case, the Third District Court of Appeals Division in California ruled on an appeal involving a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who lodged wrongful termination allegations against Ampla Health, a nonprofit healthcare provider serving low-income families. The plaintiff sued her former employer for race and gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination after Ampla Health eliminated her CFO position and designated her responsibilities to other employees. Ampla Health filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication. The trial court granted the motion in full, and the plaintiff appealed. In its recent opinion, the Appeals Division affirmed the lower court’s decision.
Facts of the Case
Soon after the plaintiff was hired as CFO of Ampla Health in 2016, the CEO received complaints about the plaintiff’s attitude toward staff and expressed concern that she disclosed confidential and inaccurate information to the board. Ampla Health claimed the plaintiff repeatedly left work without requesting time off, resulting in a threat to dock her pay. After a poor annual review, she did not receive a raise. However, every other executive received a raise, despite negative findings in their performance audits. Finally, after she reported Ampla Health’s various financial woes to the board, the nonprofit eliminated her position to reduce costs. The CEO further cited poor performance and interpersonal skills as reasons for her termination.
On the other hand, the plaintiff alleged discrimination and retaliation. First, she lodged complaints of racial and gender bias against other high-level staff members. Second, she claimed CEO allowed non-Black employees to bypass attendance policies. She also noted that she was terminated while on paid family leave. She brought causes of action for race and gender discrimination, a hostile work environment, whistleblower retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and retaliation under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), among other claims.
In upholding the lower court’s decision, the Appeals Division characterized Ampla Health’s alleged discriminatory acts as minor, one-time events that did not evidence a material change in the plaintiff’s job duties or compensation. The court further concluded that Ampla Health showed “legitimate, nondiscriminatory” and non-retaliatory reasons for its actions against the plaintiff, including various performance issues and the nonprofit’s financial situation. Additionally, the plaintiff did not show evidence that the executives she complained about supervised her or had control over her termination. She also failed to show objective evidence of her subjective belief that she faced racial and gender discrimination, or that Ampla Health’s reasons for terminating her were pretextual.
The court also found that the plaintiff failed to show a causal link between her family leave and termination, as is required under the CFRA. Additionally, the court dismissed her claims of failure to prevent discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and wrongful termination against public policy, primarily for lack of causal evidence. As a result, the court dismissed all of the claims, finding “no triable issue of material fact.”
Have You Faced Workplace Discrimination?
Unfortunately, proving a causal relationship between an employer’s actions and an employee’s termination often proves fatal to a plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims. To put your best case forward, contact The Nourmand Law Firm for assistance. Our firm has proudly represented plaintiffs in California employment discrimination claims for over 20 years. If you have experienced workplace discrimination of any kind, we will develop a strategy to present your claims in an effective way. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call our office at 800-700-9243.