Custodians of college district claim age and racial discrimination. Defense verdict. Orange County.

Summary

White supervisor is hired to manage Black and Hispanic long-time custodians. They claim he used racial slurs and harassed them. The jury rendered a defense verdict as against all plaintiffs.

The Case

  • Case Name: Luis Rivas, et al. v. North Orange County Community College District, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior Court /30-2016-00836986-CU-CR-CJC
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, February 08, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, February 22, 2016
  • Type of Action: Discrimination, Racial
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Craig Griffin
  • Plaintiffs:
    Luis Rivas, 61
    Daniel Rojas Rodriguez, 70
    Salvador Martinez, 56
    Alfonso Flores, 65
    Raymond Collins, 56
    Adrianne Williams-Collins, 48
  • Defendants:
    North Orange County Community College District
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: 0
  • Net Verdict or Award: 0
  • Settlement Amount: 0
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Defense verdict as to all six plaintiffs. The jury found that the district did not engage in any unlawful discrimination or harassment, did not fail to prevent such conduct, and did not retaliate against any party for their participation in this action. The court will now enter judgment against all plaintiffs, on all causes of action.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 12 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Sottile Baltaxe by Michael Baltaxe and Timothy Sottile, Westlake Village.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Meyers Fozi & Dwork, LLP by Golnar Fozi and Jeremy Dwork, Carlsbad.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Karen Smith, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The lawsuit arose from allegations by six nighttime custodians that they were subjected to discrimination and harassment on the basis of age and race by mid- and high-level management. Plaintiffs also claimed the defendant college district failed to prevent discrimination and harassment and, further, that plaintiffs were retaliated against for complaining of harassment/discrimination and for initiating the lawsuit.

    At trial, evidence was presented that the plaintiff custodians had previously obtained tens of thousands of dollars of unearned wages by falsifying timecards over a period of years. This practice was discovered by the district in 2013, at which time each of the plaintiffs signed agreements admitting to their misconduct in exchange for keeping their jobs. Within months, the district hired a manager to oversee the plaintiffs (and dozens of other custodians) and ensure they were appearing for work and performing their duties. Evidence showed that plaintiffs were dissatisfied with having to report to a manager, leading to repeated requests for his termination. The plaintiffs filed numerous complaints with the college district and other state and federal agencies accusing their manager of race and age discrimination and harassment. In response to each of these complaints, the district conducted several investigations, both internally and through a third party investigator, all of which concluded there was no evidence of race/age harassment or discrimination.

    Following four weeks of trial, plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the individually named manager in exchange for a waiver of costs and an agreement not to pursue plaintiffs for malicious prosecution. The case continued against the district.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiffs contended they were subjected to discrimination and harassment based on their age and race. They further claimed that they were retaliated against after complaining of alleged discrimination and harassment, and that the district failed to prevent such conduct.

    All plaintiffs were Hispanic or African American custodians over the age of fifty who were employed on the night shift at Cypress College.

    In May 2014 the defendant hired a new Caucasian supervisor. There was evidence at trial from plaintiffs and others that he harassed them by making such comments as : "stupid Mexican,", "I hate Mexicans," "You are not black, the color of my tires is black, and blacks are lazy," "Mexicans don’t understand anything," "Who hired these people who cannot speak English?"  "Who hired all these old people, they don’t understand nothing, they are slow, I need younger people to get this work done, " and many similar comments. He also would say things such as: use your brain, shut your mouth, open your ears, and I am the manager.

     There was evidence that he would also yell and scream at plaintiff workers and give them extra work. Plaintiffs repeatedly complained; no real investigation was done and the conduct was allowed to continue.

    One plaintiff, Rojas Rodriguez was fired. Williams Collins is African American.

        

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the district promptly and thoroughly investigated each of plaintiffs' complaints of alleged discrimination and harassment, and that each and every investigation determined the allegations were unfounded. The district also presented evidence that it took all appropriate steps to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation and, in fact, that none of the plaintiffs were retaliated against. The district presented evidence that the allegations made by plaintiffs were not credible and the events being alleged did not occur.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Emotional distress.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: Approximately $300,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff Daniel Rojas Rodriguez requested the jury award him approximately $300,000 in past and future economic damages, relating to his 2015 termination from the district.

Plaintiffs requested the jury award $1,900,000 in non-economic damages for emotional distress.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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