White v. Smule, Inc., 2022 WL 503811 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022)

Kenneth White alleged that while he was interviewing for a job with Smule (a developer and marketer of consumer applications), Smule told him it “was planning aggressive expansion over the course of the next few years and needed an experienced project manager to lead in building out and managing teams of project managers” in the San Francisco area. Relying on the employer’s representations, White accepted the position and relocated from Washington to San Francisco. White signed an acknowledgement that his employment with Smule was terminable at will. Five months later, Smule eliminated White’s position after deciding to move the position to its Bulgaria office. In his lawsuit, White alleged a violation of Cal. Labor Code § 970, which prohibits an employer from inducing an employee to relocate and accept employment with knowingly false representations regarding the kind, character, existence, or duration of work. The trial court granted Smule’s motion for summary judgment, but the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that an employer may not rely upon at-will employment alone as a defense to an employee’s claim under Section 970. Even in the context of at-will employment, an employer may still violate Section 970 by mischaracterizing job duties, job title, reporting structures, compensation, working hours, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment.