Dutra v. Mercy Medical Center

Employees may not assert wrongful termination claims based on the basis of public policy where such claims are more appropriately asserted in the form of workers’ compensation claims.

An employee sought to bring a common law action for wrongful termination, citing to public policy pursuant to section 132a of the California Labor Code as the basis for such claim, and where such claim was essentially identical to the employee’s workers’ compensation based claim. The trial court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss employee’s common law action for wrongful termination on the basis that such common law claims were precluded where the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate claims under California’s Labor Code.

The Court of Appeals

In affirming the trial court, the California Court of Appeals determined that the employee could not properly asserted wrongful termination based on public policy pursuant to section 132a of the California Labor Code, “does not qualify as the type of policy that can support a common law action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.” The California Court of Appeals essentially reasoned that this particular case essentially failed the test by which a common law action for wrongful termination may appropriately be asserted on the basis of a violation of public policy. For instance, the California Supreme Court in City of Moorpark v. Superior Court, has held that public policy may form the basis for common law wrongful termination claim where the test requires that the policy must be: 1) delineated in either constitutional or statutory provisions; 2) primarily serves the interests of the public as opposed to just the individuals; 3) well established at the time of the alleged wrongful discharge; 4) demonstrate both substantial and fundamental issues.

Additionally, the California Court of Appeals set forth that although the Courts do recognize a common law action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, that such constitutional or statutory provisions also recognize certain limitations in terms of the scope of the rights or remedy. In this regards, the Court determined that Section 132a of the California Labor Code, is one such limitation where “allowing plaintiff to pursue a tort cause of action based on a violation of section 132a would impermissibly give her broader remedies and procedures than that provided by the statute itself.”

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment injury claims and the recovery of attorney fees. If you have any employment-related injury claims and are considering contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.