Killgore v. SpecPro Prof’l Servs., LLC, 51 F.4th 973 (9th Cir. 2022)

While consulting for an environmental project for the United States Army Reserve Command, Aaron Killgore believed he was being required to prepare an environmental assessment in a manner that violated federal law. Killgore was fired shortly after he reported the suspected illegality to his supervisor and the Army Reserve’s project leader Chief Laura Caballero, who Killgore alleged gave the unlawful directives. The district court granted SpecPro’s partial motion for summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Killgore’s disclosure to his supervisor was actionable even though the supervisor to whom Killgore made the disclosure did not have “authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation” within the meaning of Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5(b). The Court also held that Killgore’s disclosure to Caballero was an actionable disclosure to a “government agency” within the meaning of the statute even though the disclosure was part of Killgore’s normal duties and Caballero may have been a “wrongdoer” who was the subject of the disclosure. However, the Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal of Killgore’s retaliation claim, finding that Killgore failed to present evidence that he refused to participate in illegal activity within the meaning of Section 1102.5(c).