Moore v. The Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 2016 WL 3434186 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016)
Deborah Moore was employed as the Director of Marketing for the University of California San Diego (UCSD) until her job was eliminated shortly after she got a new supervisor who believed that the job functions that Moore was performing had decreased to such a point that the supervisor could assume them herself. The job elimination also followed Moore’s being diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy, which required her to wear a monitor and external defibrillator and then to have a pacemaker surgically implanted. Prior to Moore’s surgery, the supervisor notified the human resources department that she wanted to eliminate Moore’s job, even though another employee with the same payroll, title and classification (but with less seniority than Moore) was being retained. Prior to the layoff, the supervisor did not ask Moore if she would accept a pay reduction or any of the other positions that were filled around the time of and after her termination.
The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer with respect to Moore’s claims for violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and the California Family Rights Act, but the Court of Appeal reversed (except as to the FEHA retaliation claim), finding triable issues of fact regarding pretext for the termination – based on evidence that the supervisor may not have believed Moore was healthy enough to continue in her position with the typical stressors of the job; the supervisor had told Moore that “The first thing we need to do is lighten your load to get rid of some of the stress” after Moore had informed her of her heart condition. There also was evidence that the employer had failed to follow its own policies in terminating Moore and not the other similarly-situated employee who had less seniority. Compare Mendoza v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, 2016 WL 3165856 (9th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (summary judgment in favor of employer affirmed under Americans with Disabilities Act where employer failed to return bookkeeper to a full-time position following her medical leave of absence).