I am not sure why this happens over and over again, but for some reason some trial courts keep believing that if they would vote for the employer if they were sitting as jurors, they should grant summary judgment to the employer and deny the employees their day in court. Sandell v Taylor-Listug (California Court of Appeals No. D055549, September 7, 2010) demonstrates that we are lucky to have an appellate court system to reverse this type of action.
Sandell involved a garden variety age and disability discrimination case in which the company claimed it did not discriminate, but there was plenty of evidence by which a fact finder or jury could side with the employee and find that there was discrimination. Besides the timing that Mr. Sandell was fired after returning from a leave of absence due to a stroke and right after his 60th birthday, there was evidence that the employer simply was not pleased with Mr. Sandell’s disability. The record included statements by Sandell that his boss told him, “that if I don’t make a full recovery, that the company has the right to fire me” and that this same boss chastised him with, “when I was going to get rid of the cane and when I was going to drop this dramatization.” It also noted that these types of comments were certainly evidence of discrimination, and were not “stray comments” to be disregarded by the court.
The Court of Appeals reinstated the case and stated the obvious, “The evidence is in conflict, and it is not up to the court to weigh conflicting evidence or to assess the credibility of witnesses.”