Finally! Something That's Not "Protected Activity" in California

by FordHarrison
Contact

FordHarrison

Executive Summary: It turns out that “protected activity” sufficient to make out a retaliation claim in California is not as broad as it may sometimes seem. On November 9, 2016, the Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment for the employer in Dinslage v. City and County of San Francisco (A142365). The Court held that an employee can only state a prima facie case for retaliation under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act when the protected activity is directed at an unlawful employment practice.

Background

Dinslage worked for San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department organizing programs for the disabled. Later the Department changed its focus to inclusive programming rather than segregated programming for the disabled community. Dinslage’s position was discontinued and reclassified. Dinslage believed the reorganization discriminated against the public and spoke out about his belief in public forums. He applied for the new position, made it to the second round of interviews, but ultimately was not offered the job.

Court of Appeal Rejects Retaliation Claim

After his employment ended, Dinslage sued the Department for age discrimination, retaliation, and harassment in violation of the FEHA (Cal. Gov. Code §12940, subds. (a), (h), and (j)).  Dinslage argued that his employment was terminated, in part, because of his opposition to Department actions that discriminated against people with disabilities. The trial court found, and the appellate court agreed, that he had not engaged in protected activity under the FEHA because he “spoke in public forums regarding his concern that the … Department’s reorganization would cause layoffs and the potential negative effects the reorganization would have on members of the public who have disabilities.”

The Court of Appeal held that Dinslage’s opposition to Department policies and practices he viewed as discriminating against disabled members of the general public is not protected activity because his opposition was not directed at an unlawful employment practice. Thus, Dinslage could not reasonably have believed the practices he opposed were prohibited by the FEHA. 

The Court made clear: “For protection under the ‘opposition clause,’ an employee must have opposed an employment practice made unlawful by the statute.” An employee’s “conduct may constitute protected activity…not only when the employee opposes conduct that ultimately is determined to be unlawfully discriminatory under the FEHA, but also when the employee opposes conduct that the employee reasonably and in good faith believes to be discriminatory, whether or not the challenged conduct is ultimately found to violate the FEHA.” The critical factor is the employee must reasonably believe the practice was prohibited by the FEHA. 

Quoting language from a decision by a federal court in New York, the Court of Appeal noted, “Neither the ‘unlawful practice’ nor the ‘good faith belief’ requirement is satisfied where the practice complained of was not directed at employees but, instead, was directed to individuals who are not in an employment relationship with the defendant.” (citing Taneus v. Brookhaven Memorial Hosp. Medical Center (E.D.N.Y. 2000)). The Court held that Dinslage could not “reasonably have believed his actions constituted protected activity, because there is no dispute his opposition was not directed at the Department’s employment practices.”

Employers’ Bottom Line: This case clarifies not only what constitutes protected activity to state a claim for retaliation under the FEHA but also that the employee’s belief that he or she is opposing a discriminatory practice under the FEHA must be reasonable. 

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© FordHarrison | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

FordHarrison
Contact
more
less

FordHarrison on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.