Oct 20, 2015 Robin Meadow
Reversing a defense judgment, the Court of Appeal holds that Labor Code section 98.7 does not require an employee to exhaust that statute’s administrative remedies before filing suit

Sheridan v. Touchstone Television Productions, Inc. (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 5080 (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Four) [published]. Nicollette Sheridan played Edie on Desperate Housewives until, she alleged, she was fired for complaining about a supervisor’s abusive conduct. She sued, alleging retaliatory discrimination under Labor Code section 6310 (concerning the rights of “[a]ny employee who is discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer” because of complaints “of unsafe working conditions, or work practices”). Touchstone successfully demurred on the ground that she failed to exhaust the administrative remedy provided by Labor Code section 98.7.

Representing Sheridan on appeal, GMSR argued that this remedy is optional with the employee because the statute says that the employee “may” pursue the remedy and the Labor Code explicitly defines “may” as permissive. GMSR also argued that 2013 legislation making the statute explicitly optional was a clarification of earlier legislation rather than a change in the law, so that it applied to Sheridan’s claim and eliminated any exhaustion requirement. The Court of Appeal agreed with both arguments and reversed.

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