McVeigh v. Recology

Employee claims for retaliation are asserted with merit if such employee based conduct involves protected activity, including disclosing unlawful conduct by his or her employer.

In this case, the employee worked for a recycling company and was involved in the processing, weighing, and shipping to third party purchasers, where certain weight forms were required to be submitted to the Department of Conservation, where the parties were then reimbursed based on the California Redemption Value (CRV). In the course of his employment, the employee discovered that his employer company was involved in “tag inflation” otherwise lying and misrepresenting the true weight so as to manipulate the CRV so as to obtain more compensables pursuant to the CRV.

As a result of the employee’s discovery, the employer sought to minimize his involvement in the weighing process, and even went so far to have the employee transferred to a different facility and at some point, reported the tag inflation company practice to police and informed his supervisor of doing so. Later, the same employee filed a report outlining such tag inflation to the company Board of Directors, and as a result, the Operations Manager threatened to fire the employee, and eventually did in fact terminate him. The employee filed employment claims pursuant to California’s False Claims Act, labor code, and sought claims for retaliatory and wrongful termination. In reviewing the case, the trial court dismissed employee’s claims on the basis that the employee’s conduct did not rise to the level of protected conduct, rather the reporting of “tag inflation” was in the ordinary scope of course of his employment and the employer had no reasonable knowledge that such constituted protected conduct.

The Appeals Court

In reversing the trial court, the California Court of Appeals, determined that the employee’s conduct in reporting the “tag inflation” was considered to be protected employer activity, and therefore, the employee had viable employment claims for wrongful and retaliatory discharge. More specifically, the California Court of Appeals determined that the employee’s conduct was protected in that it was reporting unlawful conduct by his employer, and therefore, pursuant to the labor code, had indicia of protected employment conduct.

Additionally, the California Court of Appeals rejected the trial court’s reasoning that the defendant employer did not know its employee was involved in protected conduct, rather the Court found that the California Court of Appeals had every reason to know that there was a strong likelihood of litigation. Furthermore, the California Court of Appeals rejected the notion that the employee’s reporting of the tag inflation was merely done in the course and scope of his employment, but rather found that such actually went beyond merely doing his job. Most compelling for the California Court of Appeals, was the determination that there was a causal link established between the employee plaintiff’s termination and his protected activity, and that the employer’s decision to eventually terminate the employee coincided with the various acts and conduct by employee in reporting the tag inflation.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment wrongful and retaliatory discharge. If you have any employment-related dispute and are considering suing your employer for wrongful or retaliatory conduct contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.