By Michelle A. Reinglass
California Employment Lawyers Association • October 2009, Volume 23, No. 10
Carla Barboza has been a full time neutral in Los Angeles since 1998. She handles mediations, and is a member of the AAA Labor and Employment Panel. She also serves as an investigator and special master.
After receiving her B.A. in Latin American Studies from UCLA in 1978, and her J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 1982, Carla began her legal career as a civil rights attorney. She worked at the EEOC in Los Angeles, and did plaintiff employment work with the firm of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, as well as in her own solo practice starting in 1993.
Carla is a first generation Chicana, her parents having emigrated from Northern Mexico after a 1949 elopement that is part of family legend. The legend has it that Carla’s mother had gone to the movies with her unsuspecting mother and sister. Meanwhile, Carla’s father, according to plan, had taken a seat in the row behind them, and during the movie he tossed popcorn at his bride-to-be as the pre-arranged signal that it was time for their exodus. (Carla says that she inherited her parents’ rebellious spirit.)
In her employment practice, Carla represented many remarkable people whose stories continue to inspire her, but she singles out three “most memorable” experiences. The first was trying a case on behalf of five Spanish-speaking hotel housekeepers who had risked their pregnancies by lifting heavy equipment up flights of stairs, after being denied the use of the elevators. They had also suffered deeply humiliating abuse, including sexual comments and name-calling. Although they were awarded a mere $30,000 in back pay, (because at the time there was no right to emotional distress damages), the case went up on appeal and led to a published decision from the Ninth Circuit upholding the right of undocumented workers to seek relief under Title VII.
The second was a sexual harassment case in which Carla represented a cement truck driver who had been sexually assaulted at work. During discovery, the judge ordered her to disclose a childhood history of sexual abuse, but the California Court of Appeal granted Carla’s petition for writ of mandate, establishing the right to privacy of victims of sexual harassment.
The third involved an eight-year-long case, fighting for her clients’ right to a jury trial. One client had been raped, and the other sexually assaulted by their manager. The trial court ordered their case to arbitration before the NASD, and although Carla succeeded in getting that order reversed, summary judgment was subsequently granted. Carla appealed again, resulting in the first California appellate decision holding employers strictly liable for sexual harassment committed by their supervisors. Lai v Prudential Ins. Co. (1998) 72 CR2d 551. (The case was later depublished by the California Supreme Court on denial of review.)
Concerning her current work, Carla reflects on the transition from the role of advocate, in which she “spoke loudly and decisively,” to that of a neutral, in which she has learned to “listen attentively to both the spoken and the unspoken,” and “to embrace uncertainty and the unexpected,” while trying not to impose her own views on others.
Carla still is enchanted by employment law, but when not working she enjoys being at home in Silverlake with her retired racing greyhounds, Lilli and Iris, a guard dog named Sy, and several chickens, including three exotic Silkies. She loves literature, music, and cooking—activities which, she says, have allowed her to “evolve and age gracefully,” and that “provide daily inspiration for the magical way that I make a living.”
© 2009 CELA Bulletin