Grinzi v. San Diego Hospice Corp., 120 Cal. App. 4th 72 (2004)

Joan Grinzi worked as a case manager for San Diego Hospice Corporation for 13 years before her employment was terminated allegedly because of her membership in Women’s Garden Circle, an investment group that the Hospice believed to be an illegal pyramid scheme. (The Hospice told Grinzi that she was being terminated for her wrongful use of its email system — an explanation that Grinzi said was a pretext.) In her lawsuit, Grinzi alleged wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and the trial court sustained without leave to amend the Hospice’s demurrer to the complaint. The Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of Grinzi’s lawsuit on the ground that the First Amendment does not support a public policy on which a tortious discharge claim can be premised because the Constitution does not regulate the activities of private (as opposed to public) employers. Similarly, the Court held that neither Labor Code § 96(k) nor § 98.6 could save Grinzi’s claim because the former does not independently express a public policy and the latter only protects employees who have exercised rights “otherwise protected by the Labor Code.”