Pollock v. Tri-Modal Distrib. Servs., Inc., 11 Cal. 5th 918 (2021)

Pamela Pollock, a customer service representative for Tri-Modal, alleged she was passed over for several promotions because she refused to have sex with Michael Kelso, Tri-Modal’s executive vice-president. Kelso initiated a dating relationship with Pollock in 2014, but the relationship ended in 2016 when Pollock refused to have sex with Kelso. In March 2017, Leticia Gonzalez received and accepted an offer of promotion, which took effect on May 1, 2017. Pollock claimed that she was the most qualified candidate for the promotion and that her refusal to have sex with Kelso was a substantial factor in her not receiving the promotion. There is no evidence in the record that Pollock knew or should have known that Gonzalez was offered and accepted the promotion in March 2017. Pollock filed her administrative complaint under the Fair Employment and Housing Act in April 2018. The trial court and the Court of Appeal determined that Pollock’s claim was time-barred because it was not filed within one year of the offer to and acceptance by Gonzalez of the promotion (even though Pollock may have been unaware of the promotion at the time). The California Supreme Court reversed the dismissal and remanded the case for a determination by the lower courts as to whether the defendant had proved that Pollock knew or should have known of Gonzalez’s promotion in or before April 2017 (one year before the filing of her administrative complaint). The Supreme Court further held that a prevailing-party employer may only recover costs on appeal if the action was “frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless when brought.”