Public Justice’s 10th Appellate Victory of 2016 Helps Employees Fight Racial Discrimination Case Together
In a case with important impacts for employees who are battling racial discrimination at their job site, the California Supreme Court has ruled that an employer’s arbitration clause does not prevent employees from seeking to arbitrate their case together as a class.
Public Justice’s client, Timothy Sandquist, was a sales manager and outstanding employee of John Elway’s Manhattan Beach Toyota. Sandquist filed both an individual and class action suit in 2012 after he says he was subjected to blatant racial discrimination by the company. While Sandquist was a highly awarded sales manager, he was not given either the official title or the pay for that leadership position. Instead, he reported being passed over for promotions, denied raises, and harassed because of his race. Sandquist ultimately resigned in 2011 due to the hostile work environment and racism he encountered.
Before the Los Angeles Superior Court could address Sandqusit’s concerns, however, Lebo Automotive (the parent company of Manhattan Beach Toyota) claimed that Sandquist’s arbitration agreement prevented him from going to court. That Court sided with the dealership, but the Second District overturned that decision. Lebo Automotive appealed the Second District’s decision to the state’s Supreme Court in San Francisco. Public Justice Executive Director Paul Bland argued the case on Sandquist’s behalf.
“Mr. Elway’s dealership tried to use its arbitration clause to block employees from banding together and to conceal just how pervasive the racist culture at Lebo Automotive had become,” Bland said. “The Court’s decision sends a clear message that employees and other groups who have been wronged do not waive their right to fight that injustice together simply because of a carefully worded fine print clause.”
“This outcome means that after years of protracted litigation over this legal question, we can now finally begin to address Mr. Sandquist’s original claims and seek redress,” Felicia Medina, leader of Sandquist’s legal team and Managing Partner of Sanford Heisler LLC’s San Francisco office, said.
The Court’s opinion is available online here.