United States: Thelen Labor and Employment Teams Win on Both Coasts
Last Updated: August 30 2007

NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES, and SAN FRANCISCO (July 25, 2007)—Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP’s national Labor and Employment department has recently seen back-to-back wins for two of the firm’s long-standing, institutional clients. Both victories—a precedent-setting victory for Kaiser Permanente in the California Court of Appeal, and another verdict in favor of New York’s Metro-North Railroad in U.S. Disctrict Court—were issued in published opinions that fully vindicated our clients’ positions.

Thelen’s Kaiser Permanente Team Wins in the California Court of Appeal

San Francisco Labor and Employment partner Deborah Broyles and associate Ellen Papadakis recently achieved an appellate victory for longtime client Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.-and, by persuading the Court of Appeal to certify its opinion for publication, also scored a significant statewide victory for all California employers.

Loggins v. Kaiser Permanente Int’l et al., California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, Case No. D048404 (June 7, 2007), arose out of the termination of an employee who was using considerable resources during work hours to attend to a privately-owned home business, in violation of Kaiser’s published employment policies. The employee then filed suit in San Diego Superior Court to challenge her termination as retaliatory.

Kaiser prevailed on summary judgment in the trial court, but the employee appealed, contending, in part, that two published California cases—(1) California Fair Emp. & Housing Comm’n v. Gemini Aluminum Corp. (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 1004 and (2) Hanson v. Lucky Stores, Inc. (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 215)—required Kaiser to prove—in addition to its well-established burden under the framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (1973) 411 U.S. 792—that "the procedure by which the employee was terminated" was "validly and fairly devised and administered to serve a legitimate business purpose."

On May 14, 2007, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in Kaiser’s favor. In so doing, the court adopted Kaiser’s argument that the Gemini Aluminum and Hanson cases had actually misread dicta from an earlier case, Martin v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (1994) 29 Cal.App.4th 1718, to imply the existence of an additional "fairness" burden as part of the McDonnell Douglas analysis. In addition, the court elaborated on the principle, stated cursorily in an earlier case, that temporal proximity, without more, would not create a triable issue on pretext so as to allow an employee to survive summary judgment.

Three days later, the court also certified the Loggins opinion for publication, thus establishing another binding employer-friendly precedent in California.

Thelen Wins Disability Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Suit for New York’s Metro-North Railroad

A Thelen team has won an important case for Metro-North Railroad (a subsidiary of Thelen client, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The case began in 2004, when the plaintiff filed a 12-count complaint against Metro-North alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYSHRL).

Kemp v. Metro-North Railroad was dismissed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York on Friday, June 15, when Judge Robert W. Sweet granted Thelen’s motion for summary judgment in a 52-page opinion.

Thelen’s team for Metro-North was led by New York Labor and Employment counsel Eric Witkin, who has successfully represented management in employment litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies for more than thirty years. Labor and Employment partner Joel Finger also contributed significantly to the successful summary judgment motion papers.

"Both victories are a testament to the firm’s ability to handle complex employment litigation from coast to coast," said national Labor and Employment department chair Linda Husar.

For more information, contact:

Kevin Livingston
National Manager of Public Relations
Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP

About Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP
Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP is an international law firm with approximately 600 attorneys, and offices in New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Hartford, Northern New Jersey, Shanghai, and London. The firm provides superior legal services in complex commercial litigation; corporate and capital markets transactions; project and asset finance; construction; labor and employment; intellectual property; information technology; domestic and international tax; employee benefits; government affairs; and real estate.

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