Case Studies

Epstein Becker Green Obtains Victory for Large Nonprofit Organization in Disability Discrimination Suit

On October 13, 2016, Epstein Becker Green (“EBG”) won a significant victory for a large nonprofit agency in Southern California when the California Court of Appeal upheld the demurrer and judgment granted in our client’s favor in the trial court. 

The case involved a single plaintiff who brought multiple causes of action alleging various forms of disability discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and public policy law, following her termination.  Plaintiff had fractured her foot and requested a four-week leave of absence.  Believing that plaintiff’s injury was not a disability that necessitated such a leave of absence, a manager denied the leave and terminated the plaintiff’s employment. 

Recognizing that our client could face potential liability if plaintiff were considered disabled and thus entitled to a reasonable accommodation, the EBG team demurred to the complaint, asserting that a fractured foot is not a “disability” under California law. Although there was a dearth of California precedent on the issue, the EBG team convinced the trial judge to look to federal authority holding that such an injury is not a disability.  The trial judge granted the demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for our client. 

Plaintiff appealed, arguing that California law is more expansive than federal law and that the judge erred in not finding a disability under the more expansive definition.  The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, finding that “an injury does not necessarily constitute a disability,” and “the FEHA regulations provide that conditions with little residual effect, such as sprains and other mild conditions, often do not qualify as disabilities under FEHA.” 

The EBG team included Adam C. Abrahms and Amy B. Messigian.

Epstein Becker Green Persuades California Court to Deny Class Certification Against Insurance Client

On March 24, 2014, after five years of litigation, Epstein Becker Green succeeded in defeating a motion for class certification in a significant class action lawsuit brought against our client Farmers Group, Inc., an insurance company, in Los Angeles Superior Court. In the case, the plaintiffs alleged that the persons who work for vendors performing property inspections for Farmers Group were wrongly classified as independent contractors, that Farmers Group was their "joint employer," and that they were entitled to overtime pay, minimum wages, reimbursement for business expenses, and a variety of penalties on a class-wide basis. Epstein Becker Green convinced the court that there were individualized issues that prevented class-wide determinations of whether the individuals had been misclassified as independent contractors, whether Farmers Group was their "joint employer," and whether Farmers Group could be held liable on any of the substantive claims. EBG also succeeded in convincing the court that the plaintiffs had not established the critical "superiority" element for class treatment.

The Epstein Becker Green team that represented Farmers Group included Michael S. Kun, Aaron F. Olsen, Lisa M. Watanabe, and Amy B. Messigian.