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Supreme Court of California
July 16, 1998, Decided
[*643] [**1334] [***500] CHIN, J.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) ( Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.) 3 generally prohibits employers from practicing some kinds of discrimination. We must decide whether persons claiming discrimination may sue their supervisors individually and hold them liable for damages if they prove their allegations. We conclude that ] the FEHA, like similar federal statutes, allows persons to sue and hold liable their employers, but not individuals. Our conclusion also applies to common law actions for wrongful discharge. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeal judgment, which held that individual employees may be sued and held liable, and approve the contrary holding of Janken v. GM Hughes Electronics (1996) 46 Cal. App. 4th 55 [53 Cal. Rptr. 2d 741] (Janken).
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff Kimberly Reno sued several defendants [****3] for various causes of action. Two of them are at issue here: (1) employment discrimination based on medical condition in violation of the FEHA, and (2) discharge in violation of public policy. Some of the defendants were business entities; others, including Marijo Baird, were individuals. As relevant here, the complaint alleged that the business entity defendants hired plaintiff as a registered nurse; that these businesses were employers as defined in the FEHA; that the [*644] individual defendants, including Baird, "acted as agents . . . of [the business defendants] in violating the FEHA and were therefore also employers" as defined in the act; and that the defendants "discriminated [***501] against plaintiff [**1335] on the basis of her medical condition, cancer, and discharged plaintiff because of her medical condition, cancer, in violation of" the FEHA and public policy.
Baird moved for summary judgment, arguing that she could not be held individually liable for employment discrimination. The superior court granted the motion. Reno appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed. It held that, under the FEHA, "supervisory agents" who committed the alleged unlawful discrimination, [****4] as well as the employer, may be sued and held liable for that discrimination. It expressly disagreed with the contrary conclusion of Janken, supra, 46 Cal. App. 4th 55.
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18 Cal. 4th 640 *; 957 P.2d 1333 **; 76 Cal. Rptr. 2d 499 ***; 1998 Cal. LEXIS 4311 ****; 98 Cal. Daily Op. Service 5586; 98 Daily Journal DAR 7769; 73 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P45,450
KIMBERLY RENO, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. MARIJO BAIRD, Defendant and Respondent.
Prior History: [****1] Superior Court of Solano County. Super. Ct. No. L003221. Richard M. Harris, Judge.
Disposition: We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
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Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Labor & Employment Law, Actionable Discrimination, Wrongful Termination, Public Policy, Wrongful Termination, General Overview