On May 22, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued an important decision clarifying that employers violate the law if they terminate or retaliate against employees who complain about violations that were already known to the employer. In People ex rel. Garcia-Brower v. Kolla’s (S269456), the employee worked for a nightclub in Orange County. She complained that she had not been paid for her three previous work shifts. The employer then threatened to report her to immigration authorities and fired her.
The plaintiff then filed a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) of the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations. The DLSE investigated and prosecuted her complaint. Unfortunately, the trial court held that Labor Code section 1102.5, California’s whistleblower protection law, did not apply because the employee had complained to her employer rather than to a government agency. The court of appeal affirmed on different grounds, holding that in order to be protected under section 1102.5, an employee’s complaint must report something that the employer was not already aware of. Continue reading “California Whistleblower Protections Cover Complaints that Employers Already Know About”→
An openly gay California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer, Jay Brome, brought suit against his employer after enduring twenty years of harassment and discrimination. The trial court dismissed his claims on the grounds that they were not filed within the statute of limitations. The California Court of Appeal for the First District reversed the trial court’s ruling in a unanimous opinion, holding that equitable tolling could extend Mr. Brome’s statute of limitations. (Brome v. California Highway Patrol, A154612, filed January 28, 2020.) Continue reading “Court of Appeal Rules in Favor of Gay CHP Veteran Suing for Sexual Orientation Discrimination”→
On September 8, 2019, the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District issued an important decision in the case of Hawkins v. City of Los Angeles (Case Nos. B279719, B282416). That decision casts light on the following questions: (1) Whether PAGA claims can be brought on behalf of an individual, as opposed to a group of aggrieved employees; (2) Whether PAGA claims can be brought against public entities; and (3) Whether attorneys’ fees are recoverable under Labor Code section 1102.5.
Plaintiff Jose Valtierra, a facility maintenance technician, sued his employer Medtronic, Inc. alleging that he was terminated on account of his disability, morbid obesity, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mr. Valtierra worked for Medtronic, Inc. for about ten years. By the last year of his employment, he had gained 70 pounds, taken time off due to joint pain, and struggled to walk. Mr. Valtierra’s supervisor, noticing that the employee was struggling to walk, allegedly became concerned about whether Mr. Valtierra was able to complete his work assignments. When the supervisor checked the computer system, he discovered that Mr. Valtierra had falsified work records, so Medtronic, Inc. terminated him.
A 54-year old Filipino woman, Shirley Galvan, worked for Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) as a nurse for approximately twenty-five years. In 2011, Doreen Alvarez became Ms. Galvan’s supervisor and allegedly began harassing Ms. Galvan and other Filipino employees. Ms. Alvarez commented that the Filipino employees could not speak English, had thick accents, made too much money, were too old, and had been at Dameron too long. Ms. Alvarez threatened to “clean house” and repeatedly humiliated the Filipino employees by making derogatory statements about their accents, level of education, and work performance. Ms. Galvan went out on stress leave due to the anxiety she was experiencing as a result of this harassment. She was constructively terminated in 2014.
The California Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion that looked into whether an employee has a disability for purposes of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Ross v. County of Riverside, D075106 (published June 10, 2019). Plaintiff Christopher Ross worked for the County of Riverside as a deputy district attorney. In 2013, Mr. Ross discovered that he might have a serious neurological condition. Continue reading “California Court of Appeal Addresses Meaning of “Physically Disabled””→
On January 23, 2019, the First Appellate District held that an employer may be liable for whistleblower retaliation when an employee reports concerns about compliance with tax laws. Siri v. Sutter Home Winery, Inc., 1st Appellate Dist. Case No. A141335 (filed Jan. 23, 2019). Plaintiff Says Siri, an accountant for Defendant Sutter Home Winery, Inc. doing business as Trinchero Family Estates (TFE), believed her employer was failing to comply with certain California sales and use tax laws. She consulted with the California State Board of Equalization, who confirmed some of Ms. Siri’s suspicions. Ms. Siri informed her direct supervisor, top management, and the company’s general counsel that TFE was not paying and had not paid use taxes it owed. TFE authorized some payments, but declined to let Ms. Siri pay for others. Continue reading “An Employer May be Held Liable for Whistleblower Retaliation When an Employee Reports Concerns about Compliance with Tax Laws”→
In this time of political turbulence, many people wonder if they can be fired for their political beliefs or activities. In California, the answer to that question is no, thanks to the provisions of California Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102. Section 1101, which has been on the books since 1937, provides as follows: No […]