Former Employee’s Discrimination Suit Survives Intel’s Dismissal Bid

According to an opinion issued on Thursday, a former Intel Corporation employee’s retaliation claims against her employer were sufficient to survive dismissal. The Sacramento, California-filed lawsuit alleges that the then 43-year-old North Indian woman and Australian national was fired because of her race, color, sex, and age.

Chief District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller explained the facts giving rise to the case, starting with the plaintiff’s hiring at Intel in early 2015. Reportedly, she was a celebrated worker who won awards and was promised a promotion. 

Soon after she was hired, however, the plaintiff began to experience harassment on part of another co-worker. Her complaints reportedly went unanswered. However, she avers that the company retaliated by giving her a false performance warning, which was reversed at her behest.  

Then, the plaintiff was able to secure a position with a new group, but faced further problems there. Reportedly, her manager discriminated against her in assigning work and the old colleague continued to harass her.

The woman was eventually laid off, despite, as the opinion described, her extensive efforts to find other work at Intel. The complaint alleges that she was ultimately fired for speaking out about harassment. 

Notably, and prior to filing suit, the plaintiff lodged complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Intel moved to dismiss the state and federal retaliation claims, arguing that the plaintiff did not include retaliation in the charges she filed with the California or federal authorities. “If that is correct, then the retaliation claims would not have been exhausted,” Judge Mueller explained.

The court analyzed whether it was obvious from the face of the plaintiff’s complaint that her retaliation claim was inconsistent with or not reasonably related to her administrative charge. The court first noted that administrative charges must be construed liberally so as not to curtail a plaintiff’s causes of action. Judge Mueller then declined Intel’s arguments to the contrary and greenlighted them, ruling that the administrative charges indeed encompass the retaliation claims.

The opinion reasoned that they “describe the same scenario, the same timeframe, the same position, and the same adverse actions: a high-performing woman of a different race and heritage than others at the company was terminated with neither a warning nor justification after her persistent complaints of sexual harassment went unanswered.”

The plaintiff is represented by Martin & Vanegas APC and Intel by Jackson Lewis P.C.