Rehmani v. Superior Ct.

Employee’s evidence of various instances of rudeness, taunting, and intimidation, based on the individual’s national origin and religion precluded employer’s summary adjudication of harassment claim where the human resources director had investigated the employee’s complaints and found them without merit.

The plaintiff employee, a Muslim Pakistani, reported to his human resources director that he was experiencing harassment from various Indian employees, alleging they were receiving favorable treatment based on their national origin. Several days later, such employee was terminated after admitting to sending emails with confidential salary to other coworkers. As a result, plaintiff filed a complaint for employment discrimination against his employer, asserting causes of action for harassment based on national origin and religion, pursuant to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Specifically, the plaintiff employee alleged that his co-workers had repeatedly made comments attempting to cast him as a terrorist and that he sympathized with the perpetrators involved in 911. Plaintiff alleged that despite complaints about his co-workers’ harassing conduct, his employer failed to take any corrective action. The superior court granted summary adjudication on the harassment claims, to which plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeals

The California Court of Appeals directed the superior court of vacate its order granting summary adjudication of the harassment claims, reasoning that there was sufficient evidence by which plaintiff could demonstrate to a jury that he experienced harassment and that the company failed to take action regarding his reports of mistreatment. In particular, the court found persuasive plaintiff’s declaration along with testimony from co-workers demonstrating taunting all were triable issues of material fact which in essence precluded summary adjudication. This case is significant in that the employer in this case, had a seemingly good faith basis by which to terminate the employee, specifically his distribution of proprietary, confidential, and salary based information. Despite this, the court still found persuasive the various factual circumstances of the case, in particular a finding at sufficient evidence was available by which the court could determine that there were various circumstances regarding harassment.

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