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Yanowitz v. L'Oreal USA, Inc.

Supreme Court of California

August 11, 2005, Filed


Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Defendant employer appealed a decision from the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Five (California), which, in a retaliation action brought by plaintiff employee under Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(h), reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer.


The employee, who was a sales manager, presented evidence that a supervisor directed her to fire a female sales associate because the associate was insufficiently attractive. The employee further stated that, after she refused to do so and repeatedly asked for adequate justification, she was often criticized in front of her subordinates and received negative performance evaluations. The court, in affirming, concluded that a trier of fact could find that the supervisor knew that the employee's refusal to comply was based on the employee's belief that the order constituted discrimination on the basis of sex, even though the employee did not explicitly say so. The court held that the proper standard for defining an adverse employment action was whether the action materially affected the terms and conditions of employment. The continuing violation doctrine was applicable. Because the employee showed that the incidents of criticism occurred with sufficient frequency to constitute a continuous and temporally related course of conduct and placed her career in jeopardy, she presented sufficient prima facie evidence of an adverse employment action. Evidence of pretext was sufficient.


The court affirmed the decision of the court of appeal.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Civil Procedure > ... > Summary Judgment > Supporting Materials > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Appeals > Summary Judgment Review > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Appeals > Summary Judgment Review > Standards of Review

Civil Procedure > ... > Summary Judgment > Motions for Summary Judgment > General Overview

Civil Procedure > ... > Summary Judgment > Opposing Materials > General Overview

HN1 Where a case comes before an appellate court after the trial court granted a motion for summary judgment, the appellate court takes the facts from the record that was before the trial court when it ruled on that motion. The appellate court reviews the trial court's decision de novo, considering all the evidence set forth in the moving and opposing papers except that to which objections were made and sustained. The appellate court liberally construes the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolves doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.


Labor & Employment Law > ... > Retaliation > Elements > Causation

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Retaliation > Elements > Protected Activities

Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Title VII Discrimination > General Overview

Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Unfair Labor Practices > Employer Violations > Interference With Protected Activities

Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Retaliation > General Overview

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Retaliation > Elements > General Overview

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Retaliation > Elements > Adverse Employment Actions

HN2  Causation

In order to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov't Code § 12900 et seq., a plaintiff must show (1) he or she engaged in a protected activity, (2) the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action, and (3) a causal link existed between the protected activity and the employer's action. Once an employee establishes a prima facie case, the employer is required to offer a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the adverse employment action. If the employer produces a legitimate reason for the adverse employment action, the presumption of retaliation drops out of the picture, and the burden shifts back to the employee to prove intentional retaliation.


Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Retaliation > General Overview

HN3 See Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(h).


Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Retaliation > General Overview

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36 Cal. 4th 1028 ; 116 P.3d 1123 ; 32 Cal. Rptr. 3d 436 ; 2005 Cal. LEXIS 8594 ; 96 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 601; 2005 Daily Journal DAR 9664; 151 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P60,048; 86 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P42,041

ELYSA J. YANOWITZ, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. L'OREAL USA, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

Prior History:  [1]  First Appellate District, Division Five No. A095474, San Francisco County Superior Court No. 304908, Ronald Evans Quidachay and A. James Robertson II, Judges.

Yanowitz v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., 106 Cal. App. 4th 1036, 131 Cal. Rptr. 2d 575, 2003 Cal. App. LEXIS 342 (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 2003).

Disposition: The court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals.