California Court of Appeal: "Me Too" Declarations Admissible

"Me too" evidence is when a plaintiff attempts to prove discrimination by showing that other employees have suffered discrimination. It can come in the form of live testimony at trial, or declarations in opposition to a motion for summary judgment.

Back in 2008, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that "me too" evidence was neither categorically admissible nor inadmissible. We posted about that here.

California's Evidence Code is similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence in a number of respects. The Court of Appeal recently decided that co-employees' declarations claiming similar discrimination was admissible to defeat a motion for summary judgment.

Basically, the plaintiff, Dewandra Johnson, claimed discrimination against her because of her pregnancy. The employer, United Cerebral Palsy / Spastic Children's Foundation etc., claimed it fired her because she falsified time records. The Court of Appeal, reversing summary judgment in favor of the employer, found several issues from which the jury could determine that the real reason was discrimination. These evidentiary submissions included declarations from co-workers that claimed the same managers who fired the plaintiff had trumped up reasons for discharging them on the basis of pregnancy. Here's what the court said:

5. Declarations from Other Employees Also Constitute Substantial Evidence That
Requires Reversal of the Summary Judgment
The challenged "me to[o]" declarations that plaintiff included in her opposition to defendant‟s motion for summary judgment constitute substantial evidence requiring reversal of the judgment. Former employees of defendant stated in their declarations that (1) they too were fired by defendant after they became pregnant, (2) they know of someone who was fired by defendant because she was pregnant, (3) they resigned
because Jimenez made their work stressful after they notified her they were trying to become pregnant, or (4) they know of occasions when employees who were
dishonest or cited for dishonesty, were not fired by defendant. These employees
worked at the same facility where plaintiff worked, they were supervised by the
same people that supervised plaintiff (Jimenez and Sandgren), and their supervisors were, in turn, supervised by Jones. This is substantial evidence sufficient to raise a triable issue of material fact as to why defendant fired plaintiff.

The Court of Appeal then surveyed the case law supporting admission of this evidence to show pretext, concluding:

The evidence sets out factual scenarios related by former employees of the defendant that are sufficiently similar to the one presented by the plaintiff
concerning her own discharge by defendant, and the probative value of the
evidence clearly outweighs any prejudice that would be suffered by defendant by
its admission. Dissimilarities between the facts related in the other employees‟ declarations and the facts asserted by plaintiff with regard to her own case go to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility.

So, the case turns on the similarity between the plaintiff's claims and her co-workers'. Had the co-workers' evidence been less similar, the court might have decided their admissibility a different way.