The California Court of Appeal recently clarified the scope of Labor Code §1102.5(b)’s anti-retaliation provisions, which protect employees from retaliation by their employer for disclosing information to a law enforcement agency. The case is an important reminder of the broad scope of section 1102.5(b), and the need for employers to carefully consider a decision to terminate an employee.
Under Labor Code §1102.5(b), an employee is protected from retaliation by his or her employer for disclosing information to a law enforcement agency where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal law. Section 1102.5(b) has been broadly construed to protect an employee from retaliation by his or her employer even where the report to law enforcement concerned a violation of law committed by a fellow employee or contractor, and not by the employer. (Hager v. County of Los Angeles (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1538, 1552; McVeigh v. Recology San Francisco (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 443, 469-471.)
Recently, in Cardenas v. M. Fanaian, D.D.S., Inc., the California Court of Appeal clarified the broad scope of Labor Code section 1102.5(b)’s anti-retaliation provisions, holding 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.”
In Cardenas, the Plaintiff reported to the Reedley Police Department that a coworker may have stolen her wedding ring. After the police began to investigate, she was terminated by her employer because the investigation was causing great tension and discomfort among the staff. (Her ring was found the next day.) Cardenas sued her employer for both a violation of section 1102.5(b)’s anti-retaliation provisions and for wrongful termination in violation of public policy (known as a Tameny claim.) She was ultimately awarded in excess of $117,000.
Cardenas is an important reminder of the broad scope of Labor Code §1102.5(b): it applies to nearly all reports to law enforcement, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, whether the violation concerns a violation of law committed by the employer, a fellow employee, or contractor. Further, the alleged violation does not need to arise out of (or even relate to) the employer’s enterprise, operations, or practices.
The full decision in Cardenas v. M. Fanaian, D.D.S., Inc. can be found here.
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