California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
No. BC551005, Gail R. Feuer, Judge. Affirmed.
Rushovich Mehtani, Aanand Ghods-Mehtani and Lisa M.
Watanabe-Peagler for Defendant and Appellant.
Peabody, Michael R. Lindsay, Alicia C. Anderson and Mae K.
Hau for Plaintiff and Respondent.
Featherstone (Featherstone) appeals from summary judgment
entered against her on claims that her former employer,
defendant and respondent Southern California Permanente
Medical Group (SCPMG), refused to rescind her resignation in
violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Gov.
Code, § 12940 et seq.) and public policy.
Featherstone alleged that while working for SCPMG she
suffered a “temporary” disability, which arose as
a result of a “relatively uncommon side effect of the
medication” she was taking in late December 2013; this
“adverse drug reaction” allegedly caused
Featherstone to suffer from an “altered mental
state.” While under the influence of this altered
mental state, Featherstone resigned from her position with
SCPMG-first, she resigned orally in a telephone conversation
with her supervisor and then, a few days later, confirmed her
resignation in writing in an email to her supervisor. A few
days after confirming her resignation in writing,
Featherstone requested SCPMG to allow her to rescind her
resignation. SCPMG, after considering Featherstone's
request, declined to do so. Featherstone then sued, alleging
that SCPMG acted with discriminatory animus by refusing to
allow her to rescind her resignation.
affirm for two principal reasons. First, SCPMG's refusal
to allow Featherstone to rescind her resignation was not an
adverse employment action under the FEHA. Second,
Featherstone failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to
whether the SCPMG employees who accepted and promptly
processed her resignation knew of her alleged temporary
disability at the time they took those actions. Because
Featherstone failed to present evidence raising a triable
issue of material fact about the legality of SCPMG's
actions, summary judgment was appropriate.
Featherstone's Employment with SCPMG
began working for SCPMG as an “at-will” employee
in 2009. She reported to Vicky Sheppard (Sheppard).
to joining SCPMG, Featherstone had suffered from chronic
sinus conditions that had resulted in the development of an
inverted papilloma tumor in her sinus cavity; between 1995
and 2008, she had five surgeries to treat the tumor.
Throughout her employment with SCPMG, Featherstone suffered
from chronic sinusitis.
October 2013, Featherstone's doctor informed her that she
needed to have surgery based on changes in her sinus tumor.
SCPMG granted Featherstone leave to have and recover from the
surgery. Featherstone's medical leave extended to
December 13, 2013. On December 16, 2013, Featherstone
returned to work without any work restrictions.
Featherstone's Resignation from SCPMG
December 23, 2013, at approximately 8:30 a.m., Featherstone
called Sheppard and informed her that she was resigning from
her employment with SCPMG effective immediately. According to
Sheppard, Featherstone told her that “ ‘God had
told [her] to do something else.' ”
to Featherstone's resignation, neither Sheppard nor
Sheppard's supervisor/manager were aware that
Featherstone was suffering from an altered mental state.
During their phone conversation, although Sheppard had to ask
Featherstone to “ ‘slow down, ' ” she
did not consider Featherstone to be “acting in a way
that [she] would consider to be odd in any manner.” On
that same day, Sheppard noticed a post by Featherstone on
Facebook regarding her resignation that seemed “a
little out of the blue, ” “a little
erratic”-Featherstone indicated that she had resigned
in order to “do God's work.”
Featherstone's post, however, did not cause any concern
in Sheppard's mind that Featherstone was not in her right
mind when she resigned, because the reference to God was not
inconsistent with Featherstone's character.
their conversation, Sheppard emailed Featherstone, asking her
to confirm her resignation in writing and then informed her
supervisor/manager and SCPMG's human resources department
of Featherstone's resignation. SCPMG's human
resources department instructed Sheppard to immediately
process Featherstone's termination paperwork so that
Featherstone could receive her final paycheck and other
discharge-related paperwork in a timely manner.
Sheppard's supervisor/manager completed and submitted
Featherstone's voluntary termination paperwork later that
same day. The paperwork indicated, inter alia,
that Featherstone was eligible to be rehired by SCPMG.
December 26, 2013, Featherstone responded to Sheppard's
email, confirming her decision to resign effective December
about December 21, 2013, Featherstone's behavior at home
began to progressively change. For example, Featherstone
“took off her clothes and walked around naked in front
of others, repeatedly and uncharacteristically swore at
family and friends, and took showers for no reason.”
December 24, 2013-one day after she resigned-Featherstone was
hospitalized. On that same day, a friend and coworker of
Featherstone spoke with Featherstone's sister, who
advised the coworker of Featherstone's hospitalization.
The coworker discussed the matter with her manager, who,
because he was not Featherstone's manager, advised her to
contact SCPMG's HR department. The HR department advised
the coworker that it could not discuss Featherstone's
situation with her since she was not a member of
Featherstone's family. After this one communication with
the HR department, the coworker did not have any other
communications with any other SCPMG employees about
Featherstone's hospitalization or medical condition.
December 26, 2013-the day she confirmed her resignation in
writing-Featherstone was released from the hospital and
transferred to a Kaiser mental health facility, which
released her later that same day.
Featherstone's Request to Rescind Her Resignation
about December 31, 2013, Featherstone informed Eva Suarez
(Suarez) in SCPMG's HR department that at the time of her
resignation she was suffering from an adverse drug reaction
and, as a result, requested that SCPMG allow her to rescind
her resignation. Suarez told Featherstone to send her any
documents that she wanted Suarez to review in connection with
her rescission request.
January 14, 2014, Featherstone sent an email to Suarez
describing the events pertaining to her resignation.
According to Featherstone, prior to her resignation she was
taking Phenergan with codeine for a cough and that medication
“caused her to do abnormal things.” Her behavior
became so abnormal that she was hospitalized for 72
hours. Featherstone further stated that she
was told by a doctor on December 25, 2013, that she had
“PCP and cocaine in her system that caused [her] to
behave so wildly due to the Phenergan with codeine.”
Attached to her email was a note from Dr. An Hong Tran dated
January 3, 2013, which seemingly both confirmed and
contradicted Featherstone's email. Dr. Tran confirmed
that Featherstone had been hospitalized “due to a
behavioral change that resulted from an adverse reaction from
medication phenergan with codeine.” Dr. Tran, however,
also stated that “[o]n confirmatory test,
[Featherstone] does not have any PCP or cocaine.”
considering the email supporting Featherstone's
rescission request and consulting with SCPMG's legal
counsel, Suarez determined that there was nothing improper
about SCPMG's acceptance of Featherstone's
resignation on December 23, 2013 and that there were no facts
requiring SCPMG to allow Featherstone to rescind her
resignation. On January 21, 2014, Suarez notified
Featherstone that SCPMG would not accede to her request.
point following her resignation did Featherstone reapply for
her prior position with SCPMG.
Standard of Review
review an order granting summary judgment de novo,
“considering all the evidence set forth in the moving
and opposition papers except that to which objections have
been made and sustained.” (Gu ...