Department of Corr. & Rehab. v. State Pers. Bd., 2022 WL 354657 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022)

Vickie Mabry-Height, M.D., sued the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, alleging discrimination on the basis of age, race and gender in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The State Personnel Board sustained Dr. Mabry-Height’s complaint on the ground that she had established a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination and the Department had failed to rebut the presumption of discrimination by offering evidence that it had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its conduct. The Department petitioned the trial court for a writ of administrative mandamus seeking an order setting aside the Board’s decision. The petition was denied and judgment was entered in favor of Dr. Mabry-Height, which the Court of Appeal affirmed in this opinion. The Court held that the Department produced no evidence of a nondiscriminatory reason for its failure to interview/hire Dr. Mabry-Height: “the employer must do more than produce evidence that the hiring authorities did not know why [the plaintiff] was not interviewed.” Further, the Department failed to show the actual reasons why plaintiff’s credentialing was revoked. Therefore, the employee was not required to prove that discrimination was a substantial motivating factor for the Department’s actions. See also Vines v. O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC, 74 Cal. App. 5th 174 (2022) (trial court abused its discretion by reducing prevailing-party attorney’s fees award of $810,000 to FEHA plaintiff who recovered only $70,000 in damages).