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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sheridan v. Touchstone: Employee Need Not Exhaust Administrative Remedies Before Filing Labor Code Section 6310 Retaliation Claim

Sheridan v. Touchstone Television Productions, LLC (Cal.App. 10/20/15) is clearly and concisely written, and I will quote from it liberally. 
Touchstone Television Productions (Touchstone) hired actress Nicollette Sheridan to appear in the television series Desperate Housewives, a show created by Marc Cherry. Sheridan sued Touchstone under Labor Code section 6310, alleging that Touchstone fired her in retaliation for her complaint about a battery allegedly committed on her by Cherry. The trial court sustained Touchstone’s demurrer to the complaint on the basis that Sheridan failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by filing a claim with the Labor Commissioner. The sole issue on appeal is whether Sheridan was required to exhaust her administrative remedies under sections 98.7 and 6312. We conclude that she was not required to do so and therefore reverse.
The Court reasoned as follows:
The plain language of [Labor Code] sections 6312 and 98.7 before the 2013 amendments did not require exhaustion. Both stated that a person who believed that he or she had been discriminated against in violation of the relevant Labor Code provisions “may,” not “shall,” file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner or the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement... Thus, a straightforward reading of the statutes establishes an administrative claim is permitted, but not required. 
Given that exhaustion was not required under the pre-2013 versions of sections 6312 and 98.7, the 2013 enactment of section 244, subdivision (a) and section 98.7, subdivision (g), merely clarified existing law.
As a result, the Court did not consider arguments regarding the statutes' retroactivity. 

The opinion is here.

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