California Employment Law Update

Category Archives: Whistleblowers

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Despite Employee-Friendly Test, California Court of Appeal Finds in Favor of Employer in Whistleblower Retaliation Claim

As we reported here, earlier this year, the California Supreme Court confirmed a relaxed standard by which employees can prove whistleblower retaliation under Labor Code section 1102.5 in Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., 12 Cal. 5th 703 (2022).  Despite the newly affirmed and extremely high burden for employers to prevail against Section 1102.5 claims … Continue Reading

May 2022 California Employment Law Notes

We invite you to review our newly-posted May 2022 California Employment Law Notes, a comprehensive review of the latest and most significant developments in California employment law. The highlights include: Former UCLA Physician Can Proceed With Whistleblower Claims Former Employee Adequately Alleged Disability Under The ADA California Resident May Rely Upon Labor Code § 925 … Continue Reading

Former UCLA Physician Can Proceed With Whistleblower Claims

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 … Continue Reading

March 2022 California Employment Law Notes

We invite you to review our newly-posted March 2022 California Employment Law Notes, a comprehensive review of the latest and most significant developments in California employment law. The highlights include: California Relaxes Standard For Proving Whistleblower Claims At-Will Employee Can Proceed With Labor Code § 970 Claim Doctor Proved Age/Race/Gender Discrimination Former Owner of Company Is … Continue Reading

California Relaxes Standard For Proving Whistleblower Claims

Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., 12 Cal. 5th 703 (2022) Plaintiff Wallen Lawson, who was discharged by his employer PPG Architectural Finishes for allegedly poor performance, brought a whistleblower claim against PPG; Lawson claimed he was terminated because he had uncovered and reported a supervisor’s scheme to “mis-tint” unpopular paint colors in order to … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Relaxes Standard Needed to Prove Whistleblower Retaliation

The California Supreme Court has resolved an inconsistency that has divided the courts as to the proper evidentiary standard necessary to prove a whistleblower retaliation claim.  Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., No. S266001, 2022 WL 244731 (Cal. Jan. 27, 2022). Background Plaintiff Wallen Lawson, who was discharged by his employer PPG Architectural Finishes for … Continue Reading

September 2021 California Employment Law Notes

We invite you to review our newly-posted September 2021 California Employment Law Notes, a comprehensive review of the latest and most significant developments in California employment law. The highlights include: Ninth Circuit Rejects “Paramour Preference” Liability Arising From Supervisor’s Affair With Another Employee $3.5 Million Emotional Distress Award Was “Shockingly Disproportionate” To Evidence Of Harm … Continue Reading

$3.5 Million Emotional Distress Award Was “Shockingly Disproportionate” To Evidence Of Harm

Briley v. City of W. Covina, 66 Cal. App. 5th 119 (2021) Jason Briley worked for the City of West Covina as a deputy fire marshal. During his employment, Briley complained that various city officials, including his former supervisor, had ignored his reports of safety issues and engaged in misconduct. The city investigated Briley’s complaints … Continue Reading

Court Upholds Whistleblower Verdicts In Favor Of Fired Parking Ticket Hearing Examiners

Hawkins v. City of Los Angeles, 40 Cal. App. 5th 384 (2019) Todd Hawkins and Hyung Kim were terminated from their jobs as hearing examiners at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. Hawkins and Kim alleged they had been fired for whistleblowing on the City’s practice of pressuring parking ticket hearing examiners to change decisions … Continue Reading

Whistleblower Lawsuit Should Not Have Been Dismissed

Taswell v. The Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 23 Cal. App. 5th 343 (2018) Carl Taswell, M.D., alleged he was retaliated against for his whistleblowing activities regarding patient safety at the brain imaging center during his employment with the University of California, Irvine. Prior to commencing his civil action, Taswell filed an internal complaint … Continue Reading

Dodd-Frank Anti-Retaliation Protection Does Not Apply Absent Prior Notice To The SEC

Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, 583 U.S. ___, 2018 WL 987345 (2018) Paul Somers alleged that his former employer Digital Realty terminated his employment after he reported to senior management suspected securities-law violations by the company. Somers neither alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) of his concerns prior to his termination nor did … Continue Reading

Whistleblower’s Claim Should Not Have Been Dismissed

Levi v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 15 Cal. App. 5th 892 (2017) Dr. Leah Levi, a neuro-ophthalmologist, alleged retaliation under California’s Whistleblower Protection Act (“CWPA”) against the University, her former employer. Dr. Levi alleged that her supervisor (Dr. Robert Weinreb) had a conflict of interest related to his wife’s position in the department … Continue Reading

Anti-Retaliation Provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley Act Apply Even If No Disclosure To SEC

Somers v. Digital Realty Trust, Inc., 850 F.3d 1045 (9th Cir. 2017) Paul Somers, who was formerly employed as a vice president of Digital Realty, alleged that he was fired after he made several reports to senior management regarding possible securities law violations. Somers did not report his concerns to the SEC. Somers sued Digital … Continue Reading

Employee’s Qui Tam Fraud Claims Should Not Have Been Dismissed

United States ex rel. Mateski v. Raytheon, 816 F.3d 565 (9th Cir. 2016) Steven Mateski worked as an engineer at Raytheon. Mateski filed a complaint in federal court alleging that Raytheon had violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”) by failing to comply with numerous contractual requirements in developing a project for the government, fraudulently covering … Continue Reading

Nuclear Plant Maintenance Manager’s Whistleblower Claim Was Properly Dismissed

Sanders v. Energy Northwest, 2016 WL 560809 (9th Cir. 2016) David W. Sanders, a maintenance manager for Energy Northwest (a nuclear power plant), claimed his employment was terminated in retaliation for his objection to the severity level designation of an internal “condition report” that was generated by other employees at the plant. Sanders filed a … Continue Reading

Court Affirms $118,000 Verdict In Favor Of Fired Employee Who Reported A Crime To The Police

Cardenas v. M. Fanaian, D.D.S., Inc., 240 Cal. App. 4th 1167 (2015) Rosa Lee Cardenas was terminated from her employment as a dental hygienist after she made a report to the police department that a coworker may have stolen her wedding ring at her workplace. Cardenas sued her employer (Dr. Fanaian) on the grounds that … Continue Reading

Retaliation Against Family Members Of Whistleblowers Prohibited

This law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who is a family member of an employee who has or is perceived to have engaged in protected conduct or made a protected complaint (such as whistleblowing). Additionally, the law excludes certain entities, such as certain household goods carriers, from the imposition of joint liability on … Continue Reading

N.D. Cal.: Internal Whistleblowers Are Protected and May Sue Individual Directors

On October 23, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California largely denied a motion to dismiss a whistleblower retaliation claim brought by a company’s former general counsel, ruling that: (i) the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”) and Dodd-Frank anti-retaliation provisions provide for individual liability against board members; and (ii) the Dodd-Frank anti-retaliation provision … Continue Reading

Former Employees Could Proceed With Whistleblower Cases Under False Claims Act

United States ex rel. Hartpence v. Kinetic Concepts, Inc., 792 F.3d 1121 (9th Cir. 2015) (en banc) Steven Hartpence and Geraldine Godecke (“Relators”) alleged in these consolidated qui tam cases that their former employer (Kinetic) had fraudulently claimed reimbursements from Medicare. After the allegations of Medicare fraud were publicly disclosed, Relators each informed the government … Continue Reading

Federal Air Marshal Could Proceed With Whistleblower Lawsuit

Dep’t of Homeland Sec. v. MacLean, 574 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 913 (2015) Robert J. MacLean became a federal air marshal for the TSA in 2001. In that role, MacLean was assigned to protect passenger flights from potential hijackings. In July 2003, the Department of Homeland Security issued a confidential advisory about a potential hijacking … Continue Reading

Employee Could Proceed With Whistleblower Lawsuit Based On Employer’s Mistaken Belief She Had Complained

Diego v. Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 231 Cal. App. 4th 913 (2014) Cecilia Diego, the former assistant director of Pilgrim United’s preschool, sued her former employer for retaliation in violation of public policy that resulted from the director’s mistaken belief that Diego had lodged a complaint with the California Department of Social Services, which … Continue Reading

Employee Could Proceed With Whistleblower Claim Based On Suspected Commercial Bribery

Ferrick v. Santa Clara Univ., 231 Cal. App. 4th 1337 (2014) Linda Ferrick, a former senior administrator for Santa Clara University, claimed the termination of her employment resulted from her reporting that her supervisor had engaged in what Ferrick believed to be commercial bribery as part of a “kickback scheme.” The trial court sustained the … Continue Reading

Alleged Whistleblower Could Proceed With Wrongful Termination Claim

Yau v. Santa Margarita Ford, Inc., 2014 WL 4198060 (Cal. Ct. App. 2014) Eddie Yau, a service manager for Santa Margarita Ford, alleged he was terminated after complaining to his general manager and the owner of the Ford dealership that fraudulent warranty repair claims were being submitted to Ford.  Yau alleged that his termination implicated … Continue Reading

Employees Of Contractors Of Public Companies May Sue For Retaliation Under Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Lawson v. FMR LLC, 571 U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 1158 (2014) Plaintiffs in this case are former employees of private companies that contract to advise or manage mutual funds (collectively, “FMR”). Both plaintiffs allege that they “blew the whistle” on putative fraud relating to the mutual funds and as a result suffered retaliation from … Continue Reading
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