Steele v. Youthful Offender Parole Bd., 162 Cal. App. 4th 1241 (2008)

Lisa Steele worked as an office assistant/receptionist for the YOPB. In her spare time, Steele competed in several bikini contests that were sponsored by a local radio station. On the day of the final contest, Raul Galindo, chairman of the YOPB, asked Steele if she was going to participate in any other bikini contests, and Steele told Galindo that there was one scheduled for that night. Galindo attended the contest and, after it was over, tried to kiss Steele on the mouth. Steele told a co-worker about the incident who in turn told another co-worker (Kym Kaslar) who later filed a DFEH complaint, claiming she was retaliated against for reporting the incident. Although Steele told the YOPB that she was not offended by Galindo’s behavior, Galindo was reprimanded for fraternizing with the staff and for being involved in a “social situation of questionable taste.” Steele was subsequently reprimanded for various performance deficiencies and misconduct. Eventually, Steele resigned her employment but before she left, she was asked to and did sign statements denying the kissing incident and any inappropriate conduct on Galindo’s part. In her subsequent lawsuit, Steele alleged she had been constructively terminated because she was a potential witness in Kaslar’s retaliation case and because the YOPB wanted the DFEH investigators to rely exclusively on the (false) statements Steele had been asked to sign before she quit. The jury awarded Steele $9,046 in lost wages and $146,705 in attorney’s fees. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, finding substantial evidence of constructive termination of Steele’s employment that was causally linked to her potential participation as a witness in Kaslar’s DFEH proceeding. Cf. CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 553 U.S. 442, 128 S. Ct. 1951 (2008) (retaliation claim may be asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1981); Gómez-Pérez v. Potter, 553 U.S. 474, 128 S. Ct. 1931 (2008) (federal employee may sue for retaliation under ADEA).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020;, co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.