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Los Angeles Office Secures Victory on Behalf of ACLU in Employment Discrimination Matter

Los Angeles, Calif. (March 22, 2022) - Los Angeles Partner Marie L. Wrighten recently secured a victory on behalf of a supervisor for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), when a Los Angeles court sustained a demurrer without leave to amend in a matter involving claims of racial discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation brought against the organization.

As reported by Law360 in an article titled, "Ex-ACLU Atty's Claim Boss Did Racist 'Neck Roll' Tossed," a Black former ACLU attorney filed a lawsuit against her ex-manager and the ACLU contending that, among other things, she was wrongfully terminated for being an "angry Black woman." Significantly, during a remote hearing, the plaintiff's attorney alleged that during a disagreement with the plaintiff, the plaintiff's ex-manager engaged in a "neck roll," which the attorney described as "a sort of stereotypical motion that people say Black women engage in when they get upset or they get annoyed, they sort of roll their neck." The attorney sought to amend the complaint to include these new allegations.

In response, Ms. Wrighten stated, among other things, that she was "a little bit thrown by [plaintiff's counsel] actually calling a neck roll stereotypically a move by a Black woman — as a Black woman. . . . The idea that what he would amend to say that if a white woman rolled her neck in a way that is stereotypically associated with Black women . . . to inject some alleged stereotypical move by a Black woman, to me is adding a layer of perhaps a stereotype that isn't at all actually stated or referenced by [the plaintiff's ex-manager]."

Unpersuaded by the plaintiff's argument, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jon R. Takasugi determined that her allegations were insufficient to state a claim, even if they were true. Accordingly, the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend as to the plaintiff’s ex-manager.   

The plaintiff has also alleged claims against the ACLU and its Executive Director Hector Villagra.  Ms. Wrighten intends to file motions for summary judgment on their behalf.  If any claims remain unresolved, the matter is set for trial in March 2023.

Ms. Wrighten is a trial lawyer with extensive experience in civil litigation. Ms. Wrighten’s practice focuses on complex business and tort litigation with an emphasis on high exposure personal injury litigation, product liability matters, toxic torts, hospitality services liability lawsuits, and employment litigation. She has represented public and private companies in single plaintiff and class action lawsuits. Ms. Wrighten has also first chaired more than 20 jury trials in state and federal court.

You may read the full Law360 article here.


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