Did you know that, in California, you have whistleblower protections even when you have only reported a personal issue to the authorities? That’s the holding of a recent appellate court.
For their 25th wedding anniversary, Rosa Lee Cardenas’ husband bought her an expensive ring. Every day, when she arrived at work, she placed the ring in her shirt pocket.
As she left work one day, she put her belongings, including her ring and her cell phone, on a break room table. She noticed when she picked up her items that the ring was missing, but she thought she had already put it back in her pocket. As you might expect, she searched everywhere at work and home, and she called her coworkers, but the ring did not turn up.
Cardenas told her boss, a dentist, that she was going to file a police report. She stated that he seemed upset or angry about this, but she filed the report nonetheless because she thought a coworker stole her ring.
After the police came to conduct interviews twice, the dentist fired Cardenas, telling her that her report had caused tension in the office. Her ring was found the next day in the dentist’s office.
Cardenas brought a lawsuit, alleging that she had been wrongfully terminated and retaliated against. She alleged that her dismissal violated California Labor Code § 1102.5, which bars retaliation against an employee who “has reasonable cause to believe” that a legal violation of law has occurred and reports the same to a government or law enforcement agency.
She won at trial and was awarded past economic damages, but the dentist appealed.
The appellate court sided with Cardenas. It found that a report of alleged wrongdoing did not have to involve an employer’s business activities to warrant whistleblower protection.
This case is important because it shows that California employees have whistleblower protection even if the matter reported is personal. In other words, an employer cannot avoid liability just because the employee’s report doesn’t relate to the employer’s business. Contact Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with an experienced labor law attorney in Sacramento.
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