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Stuart v. TUSD

Stuart v. TUSD

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Published by Daily Breeze
After a jury found he had not behaved in appropriately in the classroom, Torrance teacher Leslie Stuart sued the school district, claiming the charges were retaliatory. The case was settled out of court.
After a jury found he had not behaved in appropriately in the classroom, Torrance teacher Leslie Stuart sued the school district, claiming the charges were retaliatory. The case was settled out of court.

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: Daily Breeze on May 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/05/2012

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NOT
TO
BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS
California Rules
of
Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing
or
relying on opinions
not
certified
for
publication
or
ordered published.exceptas specified by rule
8.1115(b).
This
opinion
flas
not
been
certified
for
publication
or
ordered published
for
purposes
of
rule 8.1115.
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIASECOND APPELLATE DISTRICTDIVISION ONELESLIE STUART,Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
TORRANCE UNIFIED SCHOOLDISTRICT,Defendant and Appellant.B203942(Los Angeles CountySuper. Ct. No. BC365793)
COURT
OF
APPEAL
..
SECOND
DIS-
IF
IT
IL
1E
ill)
FEB
042009
JOSEPH
A.
L,Ar\J2
Clerk
-
.......
-
-------
DeDUTy
Clerk
APPEAL from a judgment
of
the Superior Court
of
Los Angeles County. YvettePalazuelos, Judge. Affirmed.Parker
&
Covert, Henry R. Kraft and Michael
T.
Travis for Defendant andAppellant.Law Offices
of
Michael P. Ehline and Michael P. Ehline for Plaintiff andRespondent.
 
Leslie Stuart (Stuart), a public high school teacher who lives with Crohn'sDisease, sued his employer Torrance Unified School District (the District) after theDistrict placed him on administrative leave and terminated his employment. The Districtfiled a special motion to strike Stuart's claims for disability discrimination and unlawfulretaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which the trial courtdenied. On appeal, the District limits its challenge to the trial court's denial
of
its motionto strike the retaliation claim. We affirm.
BACKGROUND
A.
The
First
Amended Complaint.
In May 2007, Stuart filed a first amended complaint against the District and two
of
.its administrators, Annette Alpern and John Schmitt.! The complaint alleged(1) disability discrimination, (2) failure to prevent discrilnination, (3) failure to provide areasonable accommodation, (4) unlawful retaliation, and (5) wrongful termination inviolation
of
public policy. Specifically, Stuart alleged:In 1999, the District hired Stuart to teach "independent studies" to students on aone-on-one basis. Two years later, Stuart learned that he had Crohn's Disease, anincurable condition that causes severe inflammation
of
the small and large intestines.In early 2004, Stuart was hospitalized because
of
his condition. Joe Zeiler, theprincipal
of
Shery High School where Stuart's office was located, demanded that Stuartcall his students to tell them that he was sick. When Stuart returned to work, Zeilerdeclared in a loud voice in front
of
others,
"We
didn't know you had Crohn's Disease!"On the same day, the high school's Dean
of
Students approached Stuart and said, "Youlook like shit! You really look like shit!
"""';You
should'takea medlcalleave right away."Because the first amended complaint is the operative complaint, we will refer to itas "the complaint" for brevity.
2
 
Stuart reported the comments to the District's Director
of
Human Resources(H.R.), who promised to investigate the matter. A month later, Zeiler twice reprimandedStuart for taking long lunch periods, which Stuart explained was directly related to hiscondition. Stuart again met with H.R., and "[a]ll present agreed that Stuart would need tobe provided with a position that would have flexibility and parameters were negotiatedpertaining
to
workday schedule and workload."In June 2004, the District eliminated Stuart's position as an independent studiesteacher, placed him on the "excess teacher list," and promised to find
"a
position forwhich he was qualified." During the following school year, Stuart worked
half
day as a"Reading Specialist" at one
of
the District's middle schools and
half
day as anindependent studies teacher at Shery High School. During this time period, Stuart'sevaluations were "excellent."In 2005, the District eliminated Stuart's position at the middle school and assignedhim a full teaching load at North High School, which consisted
of
five classes daily withapproximately
~
 
70 students. Stuart informed the District that teaching a full load ''wouldbe an excessively stressful strain on his medical condition (Crohn's Disease), with itslack
of
flexible time to use the restroom and to take
[]
medication." One week after theschool year began, Annette Alpern, the principal at North High School, informed Stuartthat she had received complaints from students about his "teaching habits." During thismeeting, Alpern asked Stuart about his medication and called him "mentallyincompetent." Stuart informed the District that he felt "harassed, threatened, andprofessionally disrespected" and stated it was "unprofessional and unethical" for Alpernto imply that his medication affected his mental, emotional, or physical capabilities.In September 2005, Stuart commenced a medical leave
of
absence. Two
of
histreating physicians wrote to the District and explained Stuart's need for a "flexibleschedule," and
"a
change
In
schools and appropnate modif1cation
of
his schedule." TheDistrict replied that it was "not able to make such adjustments without considerable coststo the District and [could not] accommodate Stuart's request." Over the next two months,Stuart continued to request a modification
of
his schedule. He proposed moving his
3

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