LA Unified School District Teacher’s Claims Alleging Harassment and Retaliation Fail

Aurora Le Mere was a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teacher for thirteen years.  In that time, she filed a number of complaints and claims arising from her employment, including worker’s compensation claims and administrative complaints regarding LAUSD’s violations of provisions of the Education Code.  In 2007, she filed a lawsuit against LAUSD and two individuals for discrimination, harassment and civil rights violations.  All her claims and cases through 2007 settled.  Then, in 2015, Ms. Le Mere filed another complaint against LAUSD and six individuals claiming that she had been unlawfully harassed and retaliated against since filing the 2007 case and worker’s compensation claims.

The defendants successfully demurred twice to the 2015 complaint.  Ms. Le Mere filed a Second Amended Complaint (SAC) alleging three causes of action, including a newly added harassment claim for which the court had not granted her leave.  LAUSD again demurred.  The trial court sustained the demurrer, this time without granting leave to amend.  The trial court reasoned that Ms. Le Mere had not obtained leave from court to bring the harassment claim, and had failed to timely file a claim under the Government Claim Act, thereby barring her retaliation claim.

On April 30, 2019, the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, affirmed the trial court’s judgment of dismissal against LAUSD.  Le Mere v. Los Angeles Unified School District, B281843 (April 30, 2019).  The appellate court found that there was no direct evidence of retaliatory animus by the individual defendants.  The court further reasoned that nearly two years elapsed between the 2007 lawsuit and the first incident of retaliation in 2009.  While temporal proximity between a protected activity and retaliatory conduct can support a prima facie case of causation, here, too much time had passed.  Thus, Ms. Le Mere’s claim for retaliation in violation of California Government Code section 12940(h) failed.

The court then turned to Ms. LeMere’s cause of action for harassment.  Ms. Le Mere never obtained leave from the court to add this claim.  The court also considered that Ms. Le Mere delayed for fourteen months before raising it and ultimately found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend.

Finally, the appellate court looked at Ms. Le Mere’s claim for retaliation in violation of the California Labor Code.  Prior to filing her 2015 lawsuit, Ms. Le Mere had failed to comply with the Government Claims Act.  It is a prerequisite for any plaintiff to file a claim for money or damages with the public entity, like LAUSD in this instance, before filing a tort claim in court.  This gives the public entity an opportunity to investigate and settle a claim without the cost of litigation.  Failure to comply with this condition precedent is fatal to a claim.  Because Ms. Le Mere filed her government claim one year after filing her original complaint and several months after filing her First Amended Complaint, Ms. Le Mere forfeited her retaliation claim.

If you feel that your employer has harassed, discriminated or retaliated against you, please feel free to call Hunter Pyle Law for a free consultation at (510)-444-4400 or