50 Cal.App.4th 1939, E015388, Faria v. San Jacinto Unified School Dist.

Docket Nº:E015388
Citation:50 Cal.App.4th 1939, 59 Cal.Rptr.2d 72
Opinion Judge:[10] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mckinster
Party Name:Faria v. San Jacinto Unified School Dist.
Attorney:[7] Wagner, Sisneros & Wagner, Christine M. Wagner and John J. Wagner for Defendants and Appellants. [8] Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff, Tichy & Mathiason, Richard J. Currier, C. Anne Hudson and Judith S. Islas for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Case Date:November 26, 1996
Court:California Court of Appeals
 
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Page 1939

50 Cal.App.4th 1939

59 Cal.Rptr.2d 72

ALFRED L. FARIA, JR., Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

SAN JACINTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Appellants.

E015388

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Second Division

November 26, 1996

[Opinion certified for partial publication. [*]]

Page 1940

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1941

COUNSEL

Wagner, Sisneros & Wagner, Christine M. Wagner and John J. Wagner for Defendants and Appellants.

Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff, Tichy & Mathiason, Richard J. Currier, C. Anne Hudson and Judith S. Islas for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

McKINSTER, J.—

The defendants appeal from a judgment entered after trial, awarding damages for a wrongful demotion of the plaintiff. We modify the judgment and affirm it as modified.

Factual and Procedural Background

Beginning in the 1989-1990 school year and continuing through 1991-1992, Alfred L. Faria, Jr., served as the assistant principal of San Jacinto High School. By a letter dated March 11, 1992, and received by Faria the following day, the school district notified Faria that he would be reassigned to a teaching position for the ensuing 1992-1993 school year. In response,

Page 1942

Faria sued the district, its superintendent, and the school board (collectively, the District) in an eight-count combined petition for writ of mandate and complaint for damages.

The first seven counts sought the issuance of a writ of mandate declaring that his demotion was invalid and ordering the District to reinstate him to the position of assistant principal for the 1992-1993 school year. Those counts were based upon allegations of various procedural defects in the District's decision to demote him, but only the fourth count is relevant here. In it, Faria claimed that the notice of his reassignment was untimely under the standards established in Education Code section 44951. That count asked not only for reinstatement but also for an award of backpay lost during the period of his reassignment.

Turning from procedural defects in the demotion to the reason behind it, his eighth count alleged that the district had demoted him because he had been arrested for an alcohol-related misdemeanor offense for which he was never convicted, thereby violating Labor Code section 432.7, subdivision (a) 1 and entitling him to an award of actual damages. Alleging further that the District's violation was intentional, he also prayed for treble damages and attorney's fees. (Id., subd. (c).) He did not, however, seek reinstatement on the ground that the demotion had been for the statutorily prohibited reason.

The mandate counts were bifurcated from the damage count. The claim regarding the timeliness of the reassignment notice, along with the other mandate counts, was tried to the court without a jury in July of 1994. While the trial court agreed that the notice had been untimely for a reassignment for the 1992-1993 school year, it found that it was timely for 1993-1994. Accordingly, it refused to order Faria's reinstatement, but did award damages in the sum of $17,766, representing one year's differential in Faria's compensation.

Immediately thereafter, the Labor Code claim was tried to a jury. By a special verdict, the jury found that each of the defendants had violated section 432.7 by relying upon the arrest in deciding to reassign Faria, that the violation was intentional, and that Faria had suffered damages of $255,325. On a motion for new trial, the trial court reduced the jury's finding on actual damages to $213,192, trebled it pursuant to subdivision (c) of section 432.7, and entered judgment in the sum of $639,576. The court also awarded attorney's fees pursuant to section 432.7, subdivision (c), in the sum of $183,750.

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The trial court granted some limited relief on some of Faria's other mandate counts, but did not order his reinstatement. Faria does not appeal from those denials of reinstatement or from any other aspect of the judgment. The District appeals only from those portions of the judgment concerning the claims under section 432.7 and Education Code section 44951.

Contentions

The District contends that the award of damages under section 432.7 is incorrect for a multitude of reasons: that monetary damages are available only to applicants rather than employees; that the award of actual damages, even after Faria's acceptance of the remittitur, is unsupported by substantial evidence; that the trial court's instructions to the jury on the definition of an intentional violation were erroneous; and that the trial court erred in excluding the District's evidence of its reason for reassigning Faria.

As to the damage award for the District's failure to timely notify Faria of his reassignment, the District argues that the deadline upon which the trial court relied is applicable only to principals, not to assistant principals such as Faria.

Discussion

A. An Employee May Recover Damages for the Violation of Section 432.7, But Not the Statutory Remedies of Treble Damages and Attorney's Fees.

1. Section 432.7 Authorizes an Award of Monetary Relief Only to Applicants for Employment, Not to Existing Employees.

When Faria was demoted, he was...

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