Sacramento Firefighter Sues To Prevent Forced Retirement, Part 13 of 19

(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this workplace/sex discrimination case and its proceedings.)

Significantly, in Yanowitz the California Supreme Court addressed this tolling concept as it relates to the continuing violation doctrine: In Richards, we recognized that a strict approach to the statute of limitations could encourage early litigation, and that in order to minimize the filing of unripe lawsuits and to promote the conciliatory resolution of claims, the FEHA statute of limitations should be interpreted liberally to allow employers and employees an opportunity to resolve disputes informally. Id., at 1057. That is precisely what plaintiff tried to do: That is, he tried to convince the City not to move forward with his retirement application in a variety of ways, but had no success. This had the effect of delaying the triggering of the statute of limitations on plaintiff’s disability and retaliation claims. As the California Supreme Court stated in Richards:

[I]t is contrary to the purposes of the FEHA to interpret its statute of limitations to encourage premature litigation at the expense of informal conciliation…

In Richards, the employer argued that the statute of limitations on a FEHA discrimination claim began running at the time the employee was notified that the employer intended to discharge him, rather than on the official date of the discharge, and that as a result, the employee’s claims were untimely because they were filed more than one-year after notification. Here, the City is really making the same argument. The City claims that the FEHA’s statute of limitations began running on the day plaintiff became aware that the City was seeking his retirement (April 26th, when the retirement application was submitted) rather than on the day the employment relationship was actually severed, which wasn’t until January 20, 2005.

Incongruously, this argument is made in spite of the City’s rejection of plaintiff’s grievance of the April 26th retirement application on the grounds that it wasn’t ripe for adjudication, and that plaintiff remained an employee. Although the Court’s ruling on Motion in Limine #1 prevented plaintiff from challenging the decision of the Retirement Board, that could never have been anticipated by plaintiff back in 2004, and to strictly interpret the statute of limitations by holding Mr.Carter to a premature trigger that he could not have anticipated, would be completely in conflict with a decade of California Supreme Court precedent and policy considerations to the contrary.

In Richards, the California Supreme Court explained the basis of its holding that the statute of limitations begins running on the date of actual termination as follows:

A contrary rule would promote premature and potentially destructive claims, in that the employee would be required to institute a complaint with the Department while he or she was still employed, thus seeking a remedy for harm that had not yet occurred… Such a rule would reduce sharply any chance at conciliation between employer and employee and draw the Department into investigations that might have been avoided through informal conciliation. Such a rule would place upon the courts of this state the burden of prematurely adjudicating claims that a termination in violation of the FEHA has occurred. See Richards, supra, at 820, citing Romano v. Rockewell, supra, at 494-495.

The Yanowitz Court offered a similar view:

A rule that would force employees to bring actions for discrete acts’ of retaliation that have not yet become ripe for adjudication…is fundamentally incompatible with the twin policy goals of encouraging informal resolution of disputes and avoiding premature lawsuits that critically informed our analysis in Richards and Romano. Yanowitz, at 1058. (See Part 14 of 19.)

For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.

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