Scheer v. The Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 76 Cal. App. 5th 904 (2022)

Arnold Scheer, M.D., M.P.H., sued the Regents of the University of California and others for alleged whistleblower retaliation. Dr. Scheer asserted claims under Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5 (“Section 1102.5”), Cal. Gov’t Code § 8547, et seq., and Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1278.5. Among other things, Dr. Scheer alleged he was retaliated against for having been a whistleblower concerning “numerous issues, violations, and concerns related to patient safety, mismanagement, economic waste, fraudulent and/or illegal conduct,” etc. Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment in the trial court, but the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the trial court had applied the wrong standard in evaluating Dr. Scheer’s claims, citing Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., 12 Cal. 5th 703 (2022). Lawson, a recent opinion from the California Supreme Court, requires the plaintiff to meet a less burdensome standard in prosecuting a whistleblower claim under Section 1102.5. In this opinion, the appellate court further held that the Lawson standard also applies to a claim under Cal. Gov’t Code § 8547.10 (comparable to Section 1102.5 but as applied to employees of the University of California). As for the alleged Health & Safety Code claim, the Court found there to be a material fact as to whether defendants’ stated reasons for termination were pretextual. See also Ross v. Superior Court, 2022 WL 1153146 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022) (whistleblower is entitled to obtain testimony showing that the employer attempted to suppress or alter a witness’s testimony); Khoiny v. Dignity Health, 76 Cal. App. 5th 390 (2022) (predominant relationship between a medical resident and a hospital residency program is an employee-employer relationship subject to claims of discrimination and retaliation).