Peter Glaessner and Oleg Albert Obtain Summary Judgment in Race Harassment and Discrimination Case

Peter Glaessner and Oleg Albert obtained summary judgment for St. Vincent de Paul Society of Contra Costa County (“St. Vincent”) recently in Contra Costa County. St. Vincent, the Executive Director, and several current and former Board members, were sued by an employee alleging that St. Vincent harassed and discriminated against him on the basis of race, and retaliated against him for complaining about harassment and discrimination.

The employee had worked for St. Vincent for over a decade, received pay raises and promotion. In September 2013, the employee filed a complaint with the California Department of Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleging race discrimination and harassment in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), among other things, going back as far as 2010. The employee received a right-to-sue letter dated March 27, 2014. A year and three days later, on March 30, 2015, employee filed his lawsuit.

In May 2016, St. Vincent moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the employee filed his lawsuit three days late and did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing the civil lawsuit. Specifically, St. Vincent argued that he failed to secure another right-to-sue letter after the one year expiration deadline of employee’s initial right-to-sue letter dated March 27, 2014. The employee opposed by producing at the summary judgment hearing on September 1, 2016, for the first time, a right-to-sue letter dated March 27, 2015. The court permitted additional time for discovery and briefing. Subsequently, defense counsel deposed the DFEH to learn that the agency created the letter dated March 27, 2015 on August 31, 2016, and that plaintiff failed to complete the DFEH submission process and did not receive a new right-to-sue letter prior to filing on March 27, 2015.

After supplemental briefing, and careful review of the DFEH deposition testimony, the court agreed with St. Vincent that the employee filed his lawsuit too late—past the expiration of the initial right to sue letter—and did not complete the process of filing of a second right-to-sue letter or received a new right-to-sue before he filed his lawsuit on March 30, 2015. Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment of the entire lawsuit.

For further information about this case please contact Peter Glaessner at pglaessner@aghwlaw.com, or Oleg Albert at oalbert@aghwlaw.com, or by calling (415) 697-2000.