Faust v. California Portland Cement Co., 150 Cal. App. 4th 864 (2007)

After Michael Faust notified his plant manager that various unnamed employees had engaged in internal theft and misconduct, the plant manager informed Faust’s supervisor of the allegations who in turn warned Faust’s co-workers to “watch their backs” around Faust. Faust, who received the “cold shoulder” from his coworkers, soon began to experience shortness of breath, confusion, panic attacks and feelings of despair before starting a 30-day psychiatric program at Kaiser Permanente. Faust also experienced severe lower back pain, began undergoing chiropractic treatment and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Faust submitted a medical certification form from his chiropractor that recommended physiotherapy, chiropractic therapy and rest and stated Faust was unable to perform regular job duties for a month. The human resources manager (Crystal Andersen) called Faust’s home and then sent him a letter questioning the chiropractor’s note, saying it was inappropriate (it was not a physician’s note) and incomplete (it requested modified work, not an absence from work). Faust’s workers’ compensation lawyer advised him not to respond to the letter. The company failed to notify Faust of his right to take medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Faust’s employment was terminated because “the paperwork [he] submitted was insufficient to sustain an approved absence from work.” The Court of Appeal reversed the summary judgment that had been entered in favor of the employer, holding that the company had improperly failed to give Faust notice of his CFRA/FMLA leave rights. Cf. Davis v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 2007 WL 1839285 (Cal. Ct. App. 2007) (wrongfully demoted employee who was medically unable to return to work was not entitled to backpay or reinstatement).