Best lawyer for employees who are wrongfully terminated in Sacramento CaliforniaAfter Rosa Lee Cardenas reported to the Reedley Police Department in Fresno County, California, that a coworker may have stolen her wedding ring at her workplace, she was terminated from her employment as a dental hygienist.  Cardenas filed a lawsuit against her employer, M. Fanaian, D.D.S., Inc. (defendant), and against Masoud Fanaian, D.D.S. (Dr. Fanaian) individually, seeking to recover compensatory damages based on two distinct causes of action:  (1) retaliation in violation of California Labor Code section 1102.5 (forbidding employers from retaliating against employees who report violations of law to a law enforcement agency) and (2) wrongful termination in violation of public policy under Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 Cal.3d 167 (Tameny).  The jury found in favor of Cardenas on both causes of action and awarded her $117,768 in damages.  The trial court entered judgment on the verdict against defendant.

Defendant now appeals from the judgment, arguing that it did not violate any fundamental public policy in terminating Cardenas’s employment.  Defendant further argues the trial court erred by excluding evidence that the real reason Cardenas filed a police report was to serve her private interest, not a public purpose.  Cardenas responds that defendant’s appeal addresses only the Tameny cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.  Since defendant’s opening brief on appeal does not challenge the other distinct theory of recovery supporting the verdict and judgment (i.e., retaliation in violation of section 1102.5), Cardenas argues that the appeal must fail.  Nevertheless, this court asked the parties to submit letter briefs on the questions of whether section 1102.5, subdivision (b) (hereafter section 1102.5(b)) depends on whether the employee’s report to law enforcement concerns conduct that is related to the employment operation or enterprise and whether it applies to an employee who files a report to law enforcement alleging a violation of law relating to a private or individual matter.

Additionally, Cardenas asserts that a section 1102.5 cause of action stands alone and does not require a separate showing that the employee’s subjective motivation and/or the particular crime he or she reported concerned a fundamental public policy.  Rather, Cardenas notes that section 1102.5 itself, where the section was violated by the employer, embodies a sufficient public policy for purposes of permitting an award of damages.  We agree with Cardenas’s statutory analysis.  In particular, we hold that the plain and unambiguous language of section 1102.5(b) creates a cause of action for damages against an employer who retaliates against an employee for reporting to law enforcement a theft of her property at the workplace.  Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The case is Cardenas v. M. Fanaian, D.D.S., Inc. (CA5 F069305 10/1/15).

California Labor Code Section 1102.5 provides:

1102.5.  (a) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or from providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.

(b) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or for providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.

(c) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation.

(d) An employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, shall not retaliate against an employee for having exercised his or her rights under subdivision (a), (b), or (c) in any former employment.

(e) A report made by an employee of a government agency to his or her employer is a disclosure of information to a government or law enforcement agency pursuant to subdivisions (a) and (b).

(f) In addition to other penalties, an employer that is a corporation or limited liability company is liable for a civil penalty not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each violation of this section.

(g) This section does not apply to rules, regulations, or policies that implement, or to actions by employers against employees who violate, the confidentiality of the lawyer-client privilege of Article 3 (commencing with Section 950) of, or the physician-patient privilege of Article 6 (commencing with Section 990) of, Chapter 4 of Division 8 of the Evidence Code, or trade secret information.

Employees, like Rosa Lee Cardenas, who are wrongfully terminated by their employers in retaliation for engaging in legally protected activity can contact the California employment attorneys at Rose Law for a free case evaluation. With offices in Gold River (Sacramento County), Modesto (Stanislaus County), and Ventura (Ventura County), we handle labor and employment lawsuits throughout California. Call 1 (800) 456-3767.

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