Continuing Violation Doctrine Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

In Accardi v. Superior Court (1993) 17 Cal. App. 4th 341, 349, the plaintiff, a female police officer, claimed that she had been the subject of an 11-year (1980 to 1991) pattern of sexual harassment. She alleged that in 1991, after she suffered a knee injury, she was excluded from light duty assignments given to injured male officers, that city employees filed false reports stating that she was no longer disabled, and that she was told by her superiors either to quit or declare herself 100 percent fit. The plaintiff filed her FEHA complaint in October 1991. the defendant employer and co-workers (collectively "the defendant") argued that the continuing violation doctrine was unavailable for plaintiff's sexual harassment claim because the events occurring within one year of the date of her FEHA complaint did not relate to sexual harassment but instead to a disputed workers' compensation claim, job assignments, and disability claims. (17 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 345-346, 349-350.) The Accardi court issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to set aside its order sustaining the defendant's demurrers, ruling that "the circumstances alleged . . . are sufficiently severe and pervasive so as to establish the existence of a long-standing abusive working environment." (17 Cal. App. 4th at p. 350.) It concluded that although "viewed in isolation, the acts which are alleged to have taken place in 1989 through 1991 may not be actionable for sex discrimination" (17 Cal. App. 4th at p. 350), "the plaintiff may be able to prove that the defendant's actions in 1989 through 1991 were a continuation of prior discriminatory practices and that these actions were used as a pretext to provide a deceptive cover of legitimacy. The seemingly nondiscriminatory activities relating to job assignments because of disability may have been undertaken with the purpose of ridding the police department of female officers." (Id. at p. 351, 21 Cal. Rptr. 2d 292.) Thus, Accardi stands for the unremarkable proposition that a plaintiff who pleads that sexual harassment and a hostile work environment continued into the limitations period pleads a timely claim in the context of a demurrer.