Wrongful Termination in violation of public policy. Although employees in the State of California are generally presumed to be at will and therefore may be terminated at any time, without notice or good cause, there is an exception where the termination is in violation of public policy.

 whistle-blower

Essentially, a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, must be based upon an actual statute or Constitutional violation. Firing an employee in breach of an internal rule or procedure, in most instances, will not support a wrongful termination in violation of public policy. That is to say, that employers do not have to follow their own rules or procedures and unless the employee can show that an internal rule or procedure was applied in an illegally discriminatory manner, the employee will not be able to establish an actionable claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Whistleblowing is one of the most common basis for a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. California Labor Code Section 1102.5 provides in part:

(a) An employer may not make, adopt, or enforce any rule,

regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing

information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the

employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information

discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or

noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.

(b) An employer may not retaliate against an employee for

disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency,

where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the

information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a

violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or

regulation.

(c) An employer may 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 or noncompliance with a

state or federal rule or regulation.

Labor Code Section 1102.5, the Whistleblower Statute, protects employees who report what they believe to be a violation of law to a government agency. Most importantly, while an employee seeking protection from retaliation under section 1102.5 for reporting activity to a government agency, must be able to point a law or statute, the employee does not have to prove that any law was actually violated by the employer. It is sufficient for the employee to base the complaint on a reasonable, good faith belief that the employer has broken or is breaking the law.

In contrast, employees who refuse to participate in an activity directed by the employer, are only protected by Labor Code Section 1102.5, if the activity would in fact result in a violation of state or federal law. Therefore, an employee who is fired for refusing to participate in an activity because she believes it may be illegal, must be right about the law in order to pursue a claim for wrongful termination under section 1102.5.

Broader Whistleblower protections are extended to employees of healthcare facilities under Health & Safety Code Section 1278.5. Section 1278.5 protects employees of health facilities from discrimination and retaliation for reporting concerns about unsafe patient care or conditions. This includes protections for employees who report concerns to outside agencies, as well as internal complaints to the facilities and extends to participation and cooperation in investigations of quality of care at the facility. Employees who are wrongfully terminated in violation of Section 1278.5 are entitled to reinstatement, reimbursement of lost wages, benefits and legal costs, in addition to other remedies.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the exceptions to the at-will presumption, but rather provides some information regarding whistleblower claims. If you have been terminated from your employment and believe it may be a wrongful termination in Orange County, Riverside County, Los Angeles County or San Bernardino County, please contact Stevens & McMillan at (800) 738-3353 for a free consultation. This article has only touched on the general scope of the law and is for information purposes only. This article is not intended to give legal advice.