What It Takes to Prove to Win a Wrongful Termination and Whistleblower Retaliation Case in California

What It Takes to Prove to Win a Wrongful Termination and Whistleblower Retaliation Case in California We all hope that the employer for whom we work every day will always conduct its business in a wholly legal and ethical manner. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen and, when it doesn't, it may fall to you to be a whistleblower. Taking that action shouldn't cost you your job but, for a lot of whistleblowers, it does. If that happens to you, your situation may be an instance of wrongful termination in violation of the law and, with the help of a knowledgeable San Mateo wrongful termination lawyer, you may be able to recover significant relief through a lawsuit. Fortunately for whistleblowers here in California, the state Supreme Court recently made it clear that, of the two methods for determining if illegal retaliation occurred, California law requires the use of the more employee-friendly one. Wrongful Termination and Whistleblower Retaliation Case That ruling came about in the case of W.L., a Southern California man who worked for a paint manufacturer stocking and merchandising his employer's products in Lowe's stores across Southern California. In the spring of 2017, W.L.'s supervisor allegedly ordered him to begin intentionally "mis-tinting" slow-selling paint colors. Mis-tinting slow-selling colors would force Lowe's to sell the paint on clearance at a steep discount (giving the paint the label of "Oops" and marking it more than 50% off the retail price,) which would allow the manufacturer to avoid being forced to buy back the excess unsold paint, as its contract with Lowe's required. W.L. made two anonymous complaints to the employer's ethics hotline. The employer eventually made the supervisor stop the practice, but did not fire the supervisor. The employer also continued to allow the man to continue supervising the whistleblower. A few months later, the supervisor recommended that the employer fire W.L., and the employer did so. In a retaliation and wrongful termination case like this worker's, there are two ways that a trial court can decide if a violation has occurred. One is a three-part test originally established in a U.S. Supreme Court case called McDonnell Douglas v. Green. The other is a framework set up by California Labor Code Section 1102.6. The "McDonnell Douglas test" is distinctly less whistleblower-friendly than is the standard created by Section 1102.6.

The Importance of Putting Aside the McDonnell Douglas Test

The central significance of the California Supreme Court ruling is that it establishes that the Section 1102.6 test (a/k/a the more worker-friendly test) is the correct one. That test is a two-part one. In the first step, the burden is on the worker/whistleblower to establish that retaliation "was a contributing factor" in the termination. The law also says that the worker must prove this by "a preponderance of the evidence." This means that the worker has evidence that makes his asserted proposition (in this circumstance, illegal retaliation) more likely true than not. This is also thought of as establishing that your assertion has a greater than 50% chance of being true. It's additionally the lowest burden of proof. Once you do that, the burden shifts to your employer. It must prove that it would have engaged in the same action (termination) for "legitimate, independent reasons." The employer must establish its proof by "clear and convincing evidence." This means having proof that demonstrates a high probability that the assertions are true. It is a higher evidentiary hurdle than the "preponderance of the evidence." Under the McDonnell Douglas test, whistleblower retaliation and wrongful termination cases were challenging to win. The Section 1102.6 test gives whistleblowers a much stronger chance in their wrongful termination cases.

Contact a San Mateo Wrongful Termination Attorney

Getting fired for engaging in protected whistleblower activities is just one way you can be wrongfully terminated. When that happens to you, protecting your rights involves several steps, and prompt, decisive action is critical. That starts with retaining the right legal representation. The diligent San Mateo wrongful termination attorneys at Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP are here to help. We've aided all kinds of workers wrongfully fired from their jobs, and we're ready to get to work for you. To set up a free consultation, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.