Vatalaro v. County of Sacramento, 2022 WL 1775708 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022)

Cynthia J. Vatalaro sued the county for a violation of Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5, alleging that the county illegally retaliated against her after she reported that she was working below her service classification, which she believed evidenced a violation of the law. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county, which the Court of Appeal affirmed but on different grounds. The appellate court applied the standard recently enunciated in Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., 12 Cal. 5th 703 (2022) and determined that the employer had succeeded in showing that “the alleged action would have occurred for legitimate, independent reasons even if the employee had not engaged in activities protected by Section 1102.5.” The Court rejected the three-part burden-shifting framework that the parties and the trial court had applied pre-Lawson.