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Elysa Yanowitz claims she began getting hostile work evaluations soon after refusing to fire a female employee because a male executive felt the employee wasn’t “hot” enough to work at cosmetics giant L’Oreal USA Inc. Yanowitz, a regional sales manager, eventually went on stress leave and sued for unlawful retaliation under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court voted 6-1 to hear the case, only three months after San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal sided with Yanowitz in reversing a summary judgment granted to L’Oreal by the trial court judge. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar opposed review. “A male executive’s order to fire a female employee because she fails to meet the executive’s standards for sexual attractiveness is an act of sex discrimination when no similar standards are applied to men,” First District Justice Linda Gemello wrote. “A lower-level manager’s refusal to carry out that order is protected activity, and an employer may not retaliate against her for that refusal.” Also Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to review a case in which lawyers starting their own firm were hit with damages for allegedly improperly soliciting clients and misappropriating trade secrets from their former boss. In addition, justices decided to hear a case in which a sex offender was found eligible for prosecution for failing to notify one county he was moving and another for failing to register upon arrival. In Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA Inc., S115154, Yanowitz — who joined the company in 1981 — claims that during a 1997 tour of the Ralph Lauren installation at a San Jose Macy’s store, John “Jack” Wiswall, a manager from New York, told her one female saleswoman was “not good looking enough.” Yanowitz contends that Wiswall told her to fire the woman and “get me somebody hot.” Yanowitz claims that on a return visit, Wiswall was angry that the woman, who was dark-skinned, was still working. Passing a “young, attractive blonde girl,” Yanowitz maintains, Wiswall told her, “God damn it, get me one that looks like that.” Yanowitz never complied and contends that she then began experiencing chronic complaints and bad evaluations. Represented by her husband, San Francisco solo practitioner Herbert Yanowitz, she filed suit in 1999 with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. In remanding the case for further proceedings on Yanowitz’s retaliation claim, the First District — accepting her evidence as true on an appeal from a grant of summary judgment for the defense — held that FEHA “imposed on Yanowitz a duty not to subject others to discrimination, and she fulfilled that duty. L’Oreal cannot punish Yanowitz for refusing to carry out Wiswall’s order.” In Reeves v. Hanlon, S114811, Los Angeles’ Second District in March upheld $150,000 in damages against Pasadena’s Hanlon & Greene and its principals, Daniel Hanlon and Colin Greene. Both had been accused of taking a list of about 2,100 clients after leaving Pasadena’s Robert L. Reeves & Associates in June 1999 and eventually persuading 155 of those clients to join them. Six paralegals and secretaries also followed. “Here, the evidence indicates that Hanlon and Greene engaged in unfair and unjustifiable misconduct in the course of hiring employees from the Reeves firm,” Justice Daniel Curry wrote for the court. All of the Supreme Court justices except Werdegar voted for review Wednesday. In People v. Britt, S115377, Sacramento’s Third District held in March that registered sex offender Michael Britt violated the law when he didn’t notify Sacramento County within five days that he had moved and when he failed to notify El Dorado County officials within five days of his arrival. “He was prosecuted for failing to perform two separate acts,” Justice Arthur Scotland wrote. “Proof of either act was not dependent on proof of the other.” Justice Fred Morrison concurred, but Justice Richard Sims III dissented, falling just short of using a vulgar term to express his displeasure. “Multiple prosecution and multiple punishment for these two registration offenses is chicken,” he wrote. “In ordinary parlance, I would use a slightly different word than ‘chicken,’ but, after all, this is an opinion.” The Supreme Court voted unanimously to hear the case.

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