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How to Proceed as a Public Employee

We are proud to have represented numerous public employees throughout California. As with unionized employees, there are a number of jurisdictional hurdles to get through to make sure you have your day in court.

A primary concern in public employment is whether all jurisdictional prerequisites have been met, such as exhausting administrative remedies by filing for and receiving a right to sue letter from the State of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Special care must be exercised in naming the exact agency involved. Such is also the case with the tort claim which must be filed for most other causes of action besides the statutory discrimination claims. Public employees in California are entitled to a Skelly hearing where valuable evidence can be obtained to support the ultimate court action.

As with private lawsuits, public employees are bound by time limits to file their claims. One year is allowed from the last date of same-type discrimination to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. A tort claim must be filed within six months, although the court may for good cause extend this time period to one year. To be allowed to file a late claim, a special application must be made.

Many times we will be asked to substitute in to take over a public employee’s lawsuit when the client finds him or herself unable to proceed without legal help, or that the first attorney has bailed. Surprisingly, many clients do not realize that punitive damages under California Civil Codes 3294 and 3295 are not available against public entities. in the event that we name a private individual, such as a supervisor, we will ask the court to award punitive damages against that individual. Should the individual have been found to have been acting outside the scope of their employment, such damages will be available to the jury to impose. We routinely ask the courts not to allow the public entity to pay those damages on behalf of the employee.

We were fortunate to have a public employment guru join us recently and have expanded this area of our practice. We now represent employees in numerous different areas and jurisdictions in California. .Whether the issue is discrimination based on age, sex, race, national origin or other, our law firm can help you determine if legal action is the best course for you.