Turns out, “whistleblower” protections apply in cases where an employer retaliates against his/her employee for matters unrelated to employment. Until recently, many wrongful termination attorneys were convinced that you can bring a lawsuit against an employer only when you were fired in retaliation for reporting illegal activities or violations of law in the employer’s enterprise, operations or practices.
But a recent case between Rosa Lee Cardenas and her employer, M. Fanaian, DDS, Inc., proved that you can sue your employer for wrongful termination even if you were terminated for filing a complaint to a government or law enforcement agency for something unrelated to employment.
Revolutionary ruling in a wrongful termination case
Until the case of Cardenas v. M. Fanaian, DDS, Inc., many lawyers in Los Angeles and all across California believed that employers were prohibited from retaliating against their employees only if they report illegal activities, negligence, or wrongdoing regarding the employer’s operation of his/her business.
For example, a truck driver who got fired for reporting to a government agency that his employer failed to comply with trucking regulations will most likely succeed in a wrongful termination lawsuit in Los Angeles and all across California. Similarly, a flight attendant who got terminated for reporting potential violations of aviation regulations by her employer will also most likely be able to prevail in her wrongful termination case.
Our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers explains that the most recent case demonstrates that California laws regarding whistleblower protections are not limited to reports concerning the employer’s unlawful actions in operations his or her business. It shows that these protections also apply to matters unrelated to the employer’s actions and expand to personal matters as well.
What was the case about, and how did this happen?
In brief, Mrs. Cardenas, who worked as a dental hygienist, had her wedding anniversary ring stolen in the workplace allegedly by one of her coworkers. Mrs. Cardenas always placed it in the blouse pocket of her scrubs before starting to work, until one day the ring, which she accidentally left on her table, was stolen.
Mrs. Cardenas told her employer that her ring was stolen and that she believed the other employee did it. She also told her employer that she was going to file a police report against that coworker. However, the employer objected and tried to discourage her from filing the police report in order to keep the workplace drama-free. But she did not listen and filed the report.
Her employer was not happy with her decision and told her that she was “making the situation worse.” A week later, after the workplace was visited by the police for its investigation, the employer told Mrs. Cardenas that he had to fire her because the situation was getting out of hand and was causing employees a great deal of tension.
After the firing, Mrs. Cardenas filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her employer alleging retaliation. Even though many believed that Mrs. Cardenas would not be able to win the case, it actually went to trial and the court ruled that the employer did retaliate against Mrs. Cardenas for filing the police report against the other employee.
The employer tried to push back against the decision, and argued on appeal that Mrs. Cardenas’ police report was not about any wrongdoings or illegal activities by her employer or company. The Court of Appeal rejected the argument, explaining that the case met the language of Section 1102.5(b), which makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting a violation of a state or federal statute to a government or law enforcement agency.
The Court also added that California laws did not limit whistleblower protections to an employer or corporate wrongdoing. The fact that the employer fired Mrs. Cardenas for filing the police report was the reason why Section 1102.5(b) applied to this case.
If you have been fired in similar circumstances or any other circumstances, consult with our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers to speak about your case. Contact our offices by calling at 310-527-6994 or fill out this contact form to get a free consultation. SE HABLA ESPAÑOL.