Incalza v. Fendi N. Am., 2007 WL 656355 (9th Cir. Mar. 6, 2007)

Giancarlo Incalza, a native and citizen of Italy, was the manager of the Beverly Hills Fendi store, an Italian fashion designer. He had an E-1 visa that was secured with Fendi’s assistance. When French nationals purchased a majority interest in Fendi, Fendi’s immigration counsel told the company that although the E-1 visas issued to Incalza and Mauricio Graziani, another Italian national, were no longer valid, H1-B visas probably could be obtained in place of the E- 1 visas. Although Fendi obtained an H1-B visa for Graziani, it terminated Incalza allegedly because “nothing could be done to remedy his visa problems.” Fendi denied Incalza’s request to take an unpaid leave of absence during which he planned to marry his fiancée, an American citizen, which would result in his eligibility for a green card. After Fendi terminated Incalza, he filed a lawsuit, alleging breach of implied in fact contract and discrimination on the basis of his Italian heritage. At trial, the jury awarded Incalza $1,088,400 in damages. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that California employment law was not preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, that there was sufficient evidence that Fendi lacked good cause to terminate Incalza and that the reason given for terminating him (“visa problems”) was a pretext because Incalza’s manager, Robert King, was looking for an excuse to remove him from his position.