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Nov 12 Firm Articles

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

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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 service member 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 service member 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 service member discrimination. Therefore, employers alone can be held liable for violations of the statute.