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Physician Partner may sue Physician’s Partnership for Retaliation Under FEHA

The California Court of Appeal recently determined that a physician partner could sue her partnership under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) for retaliation based upon that partner’s opposition to, and efforts to prevent, the sexual harassment of the partnership’s non-partner employees. The Court acknowledged that a partner cannot sue the partnership under the FEHA for alleged harassment or discrimination against the partner, or for retaliation for opposing harassment or discrimination against the partner. The Court further confirmed that a partner cannot sue her partnership for harassment, discrimination or retaliation under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, however, the Court recognized that a partner is a "person" protected from retaliation under the FEHA for opposing alleged sexual harassment of the partnership's employees, because the anti-retaliation provision shields "any person" who opposes employment discrimination, even if there is no existing employment relationship with defendant. The Court noted that the circumstances before it were "unique" thus implying that such a retaliation claim will not be raised often. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal's decision reflects a broadening of the FEHA prohibition against retaliation claims, which previously seemed to only apply to a relationship between employer and employee.

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