California Appellate Court Rejects Individial Liability for Discrimination Against Members of the Armed Forces

By: Sam G. Sherman, Esq.

In a case argued and briefed by Higgs, Fletcher & Mack’s appellate team of John Morris and Victoria Fuller, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Haligowski v. Superior Court rejected an attempt to impose individual liability against supervisors for claims of servicemember discrimination in violation of Section 394 of California’s Military and Veteran’s Code.

California courts previously rejected the imposition of individual liability against managers for discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). (Reno v. Baird (1998) 18 Cal.4th 640, 647.) That act proscribes discrimination against various categories of “protected persons.”

In this case, the Second District found the language and purpose of the statute proscribing servicemember discrimination analogous to California’s FEHA. The court found that the same policies that prevent individual liability against managers for FEHA discrimination applied with equal force in the case of servicemember discrimination. Therefore, employers alone can be held liable for violations of the statute.

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