A California court recently upheld an employer’s right to condition free training on continued employmentin the matter of USS-POSCO Industries v. Case, No. A140457 (Jan. 26, 2016).
Articles Discussing California Employment At Will.
Substantial Motivating Factor Required for Public Policy Wrongful Discharge Claim, California Court Rules
Reversing a $238,328 judgment in favor of an employee who claimed he was terminated in violation of public policy under California law for complaining about alleged sexual harassment, the California Court of Appeal has ruled the jury instruction requiring the employee to prove his complaint was “a motivating reason” for his termination, rather than “a substantial motivating reason,” was erroneous. Mendoza v. Western Medical Ctr. Santa Ana et al., No. G047394 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 14, 2014). Finding the jury instruction was inconsistent with California Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal. 4th 203 (2013), the Court ordered a new trial with the proper jury instruction.
Employee Denied Reimbursement for Expenses May Pursue Constructive Discharge Claim, California Court Rules
Reversing the dismissal of an employee’s complaint for constructive discharge in violation of public policy under California law, the California Court of Appeal has ruled that the employee stated a claim where he alleged he was forced to resign because his employer required him to use his own vehicle extensively for work without reimbursement. Vasquez v. Franklin Management Real Estate Fund, Inc., No. B245735 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 31, 2013). Stating the employer “effectively passed on a portion of its normal operating expenses to a low wage worker,” the Court noted that the allegations, if proven, would establish the employer caused the employee to be paid less than the minimum wage and created intolerable working conditions in contravention of California public policy. However, the Court affirmed the dismissal of the employee’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.
Timing Significant in Wrongful Termination, Retaliation Case, California Court Finds
Finding a triable issue of fact existed as to whether the employer’s stated reason for terminating the employee, that the employee violated his confidentiality agreement, was pretextual, the California Court of Appeal reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer in a wrongful termination and retaliation case. Redeker v. Collateral Specialists Inc., No. A136291 (Cal. Ct. App. Nov. 4, 2013) (unpublished). The Court questioned the timing of the employee’s termination, which occurred shortly after he had contacted government agencies regarding the employer’s classification of certain workers as independent contractors.
Alleged Protected Activity Unrelated to Discharge, California Court Finds, Reverses $3 Million Verdict
Reversing a $3 million jury verdict in favor of a former human resources executive on his wrongful termination claim, the California Court of Appeal has ruled that the executive failed to establish that the employer’s decision not to continue his employment following a corporate acquisition was retaliatory. Winston v. Countrywide Financial Corp. et al., No. B232823 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2013) (unpublished). The Court declined to apply the “cat’s paw” doctrine, which permits the improper motive of a non-decision maker to be imputed to the decision maker in certain circumstances. Here, the executive offered no evidence that the decision maker knew about the executive’s prior protected activity or that the executive’s former supervisor had any influence in the employer’s decision not to continue his employment.
California Court Nixes Wrongful Termination Claim by Manager Who Refused to Cooperate in Employer’s Investigation
Affirming the dismissal of a manager’s wrongful termination and gender discrimination claims, the California Court of Appeal has held that an at-will employee may be terminated for being uncooperative or deceptive in an employer’s internal investigation of a discrimination claim. McGrory v. Applied Signal Technology, Inc., No. H036597 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2013). The Court also rejected the employee’s defamation claim, finding that the employer’s statements regarding the reasons for the employee’s termination were conditionally privileged.
No Wrongful Termination Claim for Nonrenewal of Contract, But Retaliation Claim Allowed under California Law
Desperate Housewives actress, Nicollette Sheridan, cannot pursue a claim for wrongful termination based on the television production company’s failure to renew her contract for an additional season, the California Court of Appeal has ruled. Touchstone Television Productions v. Superior Court (Sheridan), No. B241137 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 16, 2012). Although Sheridan contended that the production company fired her in violation of state public policy because she complained about a battery committed upon her by the series’ creator, the Court declined to fashion a new tort for nonrenewal of a fixed-term employment contract and directed the trial court to enter a verdict in favor of the production company. However, the Court would permit Sheridan to amend her complaint to assert a claim for retaliation for complaints about unsafe working conditions under Section 6310(b) of the California Labor Code.
Teacher Can’t Sue Church School for FEHA Violations
A California Court of Appeal has ruled that a religious school teacher who was living “out of wedlock” with her boyfriend as they raised their child cannot state a claim against the church for wrongful termination based upon marital status discrimination. Henry v. Red Hill Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tustin, No. G044556 (Fourth Dist., Div. Three Dec. 9, 2011).