California Employment Law Update

Category Archives: Whistleblowers

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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 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

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

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

March 2014 California Employment Law Notes

$150,000 Sexual Harassment Verdict And $680,000 Fee Award Affirmed Taylor v. Nabors Drilling USA, LP, 222 Cal. App. 4th 1228 (2014) Max Taylor worked as a floorhand on an oil rig where he alleged he was harassed by his supervisors who called him “queer,” “fagot [sic],” “homo,” and “gay porn star” and was subjected to … Continue Reading

Court of Appeal Holds that State Courts Have Concurrent Jurisdiction over FCA Retaliation Claims

On January 30, 2014, the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District ruled that California State courts have concurrent jurisdiction over retaliation claims under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) in Driscoll v. Superior Court (Spencer). The following addresses the basis for that ruling and its implications. Background Radiologist Scott Driscoll worked for physician Todd Spencer and … Continue Reading

New California Law Expands Protections for Whistleblowers

On October 12, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 496, which, along with two other new laws (SB 666 and AB 263), expands protections for whistleblowers in California by significantly altering California Labor Code Section 1102.5, California’s general whistleblower statute. The amendments are effective January 1, 2014. Before it was amended, Section … Continue Reading

Employee Could Proceed With Whistleblower Claims

McVeigh v. Recology San Francisco, 213 Cal. App. 4th 443 (2013) Brian McVeigh, a former Operations Supervisor for Recology, alleged Recology fired him in retaliation for his reporting possible fraud in connection with California Redemption Value payments made by and to Recology for recycled materials. McVeigh asserted claims under the California False Claims Act and … Continue Reading

Community College Employee Is Entitled To New Trial On Whistleblower Claims

Mize-Kurzman v. Marin Cmty. Coll. Dist., 202 Cal. App. 4th 832 (2012) Pamela Mize-Kurzman, who had been promoted to Dean of Enrollment Services as part of a settlement of a previous lawsuit against the district, claimed the district retaliated against her for disclosing what she believed to be violations of the law or regulations to … Continue Reading

Flight Engineer’s Whistleblower Claim Was Not Preempted By Federal Law

Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 603 F.3d 676 (2010) Martin Ventress, a flight engineer for Japan Airlines (“JAL”), alleged his employment was terminated in violation of the California whistleblower statute (Labor Code § 1102.5(b)) for allegedly reporting safety violations six months after they occurred. JAL moved for judgment on the pleadings, asserting complete federal preemption by … Continue Reading

Evidence Supported Whistleblower Retaliation Claim But Not Sexual Harassment

Mokler v. County of Orange, 157 Cal. App. 4th 121 (2007) Pamela Mokler was employed as the executive director of the County’s Office on Aging (“OoA”). Following her termination, she sued the County for breach of contract, wrongful termination, hostile work environment and unlawful retaliation under Labor Code § 1102.5 (the “whistleblower statute”). The jury … Continue Reading

No Private Right Of Action Under Federal Whistleblower Protection Program

Williams v. United Airlines, Inc., 500 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2007) Anthony L. Williams, a maintenance worker, sued United Airlines and his former supervisor, alleging retaliatory discrimination under the Federal Airline Deregulation Act’s Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP) and related state law claims. Williams claimed that he was terminated in retaliation for a dispute related to an … Continue Reading

UC Employee Failed To Exhaust Internal University Grievance Procedures

Palmer v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 107 Cal. App. 4th 899 (2003) Patricia Palmer, who worked as a clinical laboratory technologist at the UCLA Medical Center, sued the UC Regents for wrongful termination in violation of public policy following the restructuring of the department in which she had worked and the termination of … Continue Reading

Cal State Employee May Proceed With Constructive Wrongful Termination Claim

Colores v. Bd. of Trustees of the Cal. State Univ., 105 Cal. App. 4th 1293 (2003) Lillian Colores, a former director of procurement, contracts and support services for California State University, Los Angeles, alleged that she was constructively terminated in violation of public policy. Nine years after she began working at the university (and 12 … Continue Reading
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