Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Prods., 847 F.3d 678 (9th Cir. 2017)

Efrain Reynaga and his son Richard Reynaga, who worked as millwrights for Roseburg Forest Products, were the only millwrights of Mexican descent at the company. Efrain alleged that during the course of his employment he was subjected to disparate treatment and a hostile work environment based on his race or national origin. Efrain alleged that a contentious relationship had developed with lead millwright Timothy Branaugh who allegedly had harassed Efrain with racially disparaging comments. Following an investigation into Efrain’s allegations, Roseburg rearranged Branaugh’s work schedule so that he would not be on the same shift as Efrain. When Branaugh was subsequently scheduled to work the same shift as the Reynagas (despite the rearrangement of Branaugh’s schedule), they refused to work and their employment was terminated. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Roseburg, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Branaugh’s demeaning comments that directly referenced race were not “offhand comments” or “mere offensive utterances” and were sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment. The Court also held there was sufficient evidence of disparate treatment and retaliation to preclude entry of summary judgment for Roseburg. See also Hamilton v. Orange County Sheriff’s Dep’t, 2017 WL 591412 (Cal. Ct. App. 2017) (trial court abused its discretion by failing to accommodate counsel’s joint request for a 60-day continuance prior to granting summary judgment); Van v. Language Line Servs., Inc., 8 Cal. App. 5th 73 (2017) (trial court abused its discretion by sanctioning plaintiff and finding her in contempt for failing to attend her deposition where there was no court order in place compelling her attendance).