Taylor v. City of Los Angeles, 144 Cal. App. 4th 1216 (2006)

Eric Taylor, an electrical engineer employed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, alleged that he suffered from multiple acts of retaliation by his supervisor (Bruce Hamer) after Taylor acted as a “supporting and material witness” on behalf of a former subordinate (Donald Coleman) in Coleman’s claim that he had been discriminated against when his employment was terminated for cause. Although the trial court sustained without leave to amend defendants’ demurrer to the retaliation claim, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment, holding that Taylor had sufficiently alleged “adverse action” under both the “materiality test” under California law and the more liberal “deterrence test” adopted by the United States Supreme Court in Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 126 S. Ct. 2405 (2006). Although Taylor’s employment was not terminated, he alleged that Hamer stripped him of his supervisory position; threatened to terminate his 4-10 work schedule; barred him from completing supervisory certification courses; embarrassed him in front of a subordinate; excluded him from meetings; deprived him of information necessary to carry out his duties; undermined him, etc., all allegedly in retaliation for his having supported Coleman’s discrimination claim. The appellate court further held that a supervisor such as Hamer could be held personally liable for retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and that the City’s alleged failure to prevent retaliation could be unlawful under the same Act. Compare Collins v. Hertz Corp., 144 Cal. App. 4th 64 (2006) (summary judgment for employer affirmed in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation case in which plaintiffs failed to follow procedural rules for opposing motion).