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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rickards v. UPS: Court Holds that Plaintiff's Counsel Properly Obtained Right To Sue Letter On DFEH Web Site Without Plaintiff's Signature

Rickards v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (6/19/12) --- Cal.App.4th --- presents an important, discrete issue: Is a complaint filed by counsel through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s automated online system properly verified? According to the Court of Appeal, the answer is yes.

The plaintiff, Rickards, sued UPS for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The trial court (Los Angeles Superior, Judge William Fahey) granted summary judgment on the sole ground that Rickards had not filed a verified complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Rickards appealed, and the Court held that the complaint Rickards' attorney filed through DFEH's online automated system was sufficient under FEHA.
The instructions on DFEH's automated system make clear that requests for an immediate right-to-sue letter are accepted from complainants who have decided to go directly to court without an investigation by DFEH, and such a decision is advisable only if the complainant has an attorney. The right-to-sue letter that can be immediately printed after inputting information into the automated system is accompanied by a notice to complainant‘s attorney. Since the system is essentially intended to be used by complainants who have counsel, such complainants should not be penalized for retaining counsel.
Slip op. at 9. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the Court affirmed the summary judgment on grounds not considered by the trial court.

The opinion is available here.

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