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May 2012

Los Angeles Employment Team Obtains Complete Summary Judgment

On April 30th, Los Angeles attorneys Steve Ronk, Anthony Bellone and Erika Shao won summary judgment on behalf of a multi-state engineering company. The plaintiff, originally from India, complained that he had been harassed, discriminated against, and ultimately terminated because of his race, religion, and national origin. The plaintiff was hired as a shareholder and principal to establish a division of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering in the company’s Los Angeles office. The plaintiff was terminated after approximately 18 months of employment, as he had the lowest utilization rate of any of the company’s other principals, and the Los Angeles office was projected to have an annual loss of $225,000.

Prior to termination, the company offered the plaintiff a six-month probationary employment period in the hope that his performance would improve. The plaintiff did not accept the position.

The court issued a thorough decision in which it disposed of all nine causes of action brought by the plaintiff. The court stated that even if the plaintiff had met his initial burden to establish a prima facie claim of discrimination, the company provided compelling evidence of a legitimate non-discriminatory basis for its decision to terminate him. The burden was shifted to the employee to demonstrate that the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its true reasons, but were a pretext for discrimination.1

In this case, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact that the company’s justifications were pretextual.


1  See Texas Dept. of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine (1991) 450 U.S. 248, 252-53; McDonnell Douglas
   Corp.v. Green
(1973) 411 U.S. 792, 802


Stephen E. Ronk
Erika L. Shao