Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

Petitioner employer sought mandate relief from an order of respondent Superior Court of San Mateo County (California), which, in a wrongful termination suit alleging age discrimination and retaliation, granted real party in interest employee’s motion to compel further answers to special interrogatories seeking detailed information about other employees and former employees.

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Overview

The employee alleged discriminatory application of a reduction in force for the purpose of terminating older employees. He sought to discover information that included the names and ages of terminated workers and the names and contact information of workers who were not terminated. The court held that the information sought was relevant under Code Civ. Proc., § 2017.010, and Evid. Code, § 210, because it was likely to lead to admissible statistical evidence to prove both disparate treatment and disparate impact claims. The trial court erred, however, by not conducting a sufficient analysis of the privacy rights of the third party employees and former employees under Cal. Const., art. I, § 1. Although the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq., reflected a compelling public policy of ending discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, that public policy had to be weighed against the privacy interests involved. It was necessary to consider whether there was a less intrusive means of obtaining information, to provide sufficient notice to the third parties and a means of objecting to disclosure, and to ensure the protection of information disclosed.

Outcome

The court issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the trial court to set aside that portion of its order granting the employee’s motion to compel responses to the challenged special interrogatories and to reconsider the motion.

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