Sandell v. Taylor-Listug, Inc., 188 Cal. App. 4th 297 (2010)

Robert Sandell began his employment as vice president of sales with Taylor-Listug in February 2004. Six months later, while on a six-month sabbatical from work, Sandell suffered a stroke (following a chiropractic adjustment). When Sandell returned to work in October, he was using a cane and had noticeably slower speech. Taylor-Listug terminated Sandell’s employment three years later (when he was 60 years old) because of his “lack of leadership in providing direction to the sales team and in producing satisfactory sales results.” Sandell sued for age and disability discrimination. The trial court granted summary judgment to Taylor-Listug, but the Court of Appeal reversed, finding evidence of pretext for the termination given Sandell’s relatively favorable performance evaluations. The Court also discounted declarations from employees who criticized Sandell’s management because none of these employees had ever brought those complaints to the attention of management while Sandell was still working for the company. Relying upon Reid v. Google, Inc., 50 Cal. 4th 512 (2010), the Court of Appeal refused to label as “stray remarks” certain comments management personnel made directly to Sandell about his disability. As for the age claim, the Court determined the delay in replacing Sandell with a significantly younger employee (18 months after Sandell’s termination) and the fact that Sandell was hired and fired by the same person within a short period of time did not entitle the employer to summary adjudication of this claim. See also Steller v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 2010 WL 4010602 (Cal. Ct. App. 2010) (parties’ settlement of disability discrimination claim impliedly included settlement of outstanding workers’ compensation claims but also was impliedly conditioned upon the WCAB’s approval of the settlement of the workers’ compensation claim).