Joaquin v. City of Los Angeles, 202 Cal. App. 4th 1207 (2012)

Richard Joaquin alleged his employment as an LAPD officer was terminated in retaliation for his having filed a sexual harassment complaint against his supervisor, Sgt. James Sands. The case was tried to a jury and Joaquin was awarded more than $2.1 million in damages. On appeal, the city asserted that Joaquin had failed to introduce substantial evidence that its decision to terminate his employment was motivated by retaliatory animus or intent. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment, holding that “in appropriate circumstances, an employer may discipline or terminate an employee for making false charges, even where the subject matter of those charges is an allegation of sexual harassment.” Specifically, the Court held that although Sands may have wanted Joaquin disciplined for having alleged sexual harassment, there was no evidence that Sands played a role in or had the power to effect the termination of Joaquin’s employment. Although not part of its holding in this case, the Court identified a “significant flaw” in CACI No. 2505 because it does not clearly state that retaliatory intent is a necessary element of a FEHA retaliation claim.