Mize-Kurzman v. Marin Cmty. Coll. Dist., 202 Cal. App. 4th 832 (2012)

Pamela Mize-Kurzman, who had been promoted to Dean of Enrollment Services as part of a settlement of a previous lawsuit against the district, claimed the district retaliated against her for disclosing what she believed to be violations of the law or regulations to various individuals and entities. Mize-Kurzman went to trial against the district on claims alleging violation of the whistleblower protection provisions codified in Cal. Labor Code § 1102.5 and the Education Code. The jury deliberated two days before finding against Mize-Kurzman on all of her claims. In this appeal, Mize-Kurzman asserted instructional error on the part of the trial court. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and ordered a new trial after concluding the trial court had erroneously instructed the jury. Specifically, the Court held the trial court had erroneously instructed the jury that a plaintiff must prove that any disclosure was made in good faith and for the public good and not for personal reasons, holding that “it may often be the case that a personal agenda or animus towards a supervisor or other employees will be one of several considerations motivating the employee whistleblower to make a disclosure regarding conduct that the employee also reasonably believes violates a statute or rule or constitutes misconduct.” The Court also held that it was error to instruct the jury that “debatable differences of opinion concerning policy matters are not protected disclosures” and “information passed along to a supervisor in the normal course of duties is not a protected disclosure.” However, the Court found no error in the instructions that “reporting publicly known facts is not a protected disclosure” and “efforts to determine if a practice violates the law are not protected disclosures.” The Court did find error in the trial court’s admission of evidence of Mize-Kurzman’s retirement eligibility and income with respect to the issue of mitigation of her damages. See also Chaaban v. Wet Seal, Inc., 203 Cal. App. 4th 49 (2012) (prevailing party that served Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 998 may recover fees paid to opposing party’s expert witness).


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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.