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- Each action’s elements;
- The most recent state and federal cases that cite the actions’ elements;
- The applicable statute of limitations for each action; and
- Defenses to each cause of action.
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Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy

1 Elements and Case Citations

[P]ublic policy cases fall into one of four categories: the employee (1) refused to violate a statute; (2) performed a statutory obligation; (3) exercised a constitutional or statutory right or privilege; or (4) reported a statutory violation for the public's benefit.

Green v. Ralee Engineering Co., 19 Cal. 4th 66, 76 (Cal. 1998).

[T]o support a claim for tortious discharge, the violated policy (1) “must be supported by either constitutional or statutory provisions;” (2) “be ‘public’ in the sense that it ‘inures to the benefit of the public’ rather than serving merely the interests of the individual;” (3) “have been articulated at the time of the discharge;” and (4) “be ‘fundamental’ and ‘substantial.’”

Grinzi v. San Diego Hospice Corp., 120 Cal. App. 4th 72, 29 (2004).

To establish a tort claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, a Plaintiff must establish (1) an employer-employee relationship; (2) termination or other adverse employment action; (3) the termination or adverse action was a violation of public policy; (4) the termination or adverse action was a legal cause of Plaintiff's damages; and (5) the nature and extent of the damages.

Brown v. Fresno Unified School Dist., No. 1:12-cv-01597-AWI-SMS, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156251, at *19 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2012).

To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff “must show (1) she engaged in a protected activity, (2) her employer subjected her to an adverse employment action, and (3) there is a causal link between the two.”

McVeigh v. Recology San Francisco, 213 Cal. App. 4th 443, 468 (2013).


Supreme Court of California: Green v. Ralee Engineering Co., 19 Cal. 4th 66, 76 (Cal. 1998), Gantt v. Sentry Insurance, 1 Cal. 4th 1083, 1094 (1992); Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 27 Cal. 3d 167, 172 (1980).

California 1st District: McVeigh v. Recology San Francisco, 213 Cal. App. 4th 443, 468 (2013). .

California 2d District: Sistare-Meyer v. Young Men’s Christian Ass’n, 58 Cal. App. 4th 10, 14 (1997).

California 3d District: Scott v. Phoenix Schools, Inc., 175 Cal. App. 4th 702, 708-09 (2009); Feminist Women's Health Ctr. v. Superior Court, 52 Cal. App. 4th 1234, 1244 (1997).

California 4th District: Casella v. SouthWest Dealer Services, Inc., 157 Cal. App. 4th 1127, 1140 n.4 (2007).

California 5th District: Haney v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 121 Cal. App. 4th 623, 641 (2004).

California 6th District: Nelson v. United Technologies, 74 Cal. App. 4th 597, 608 (1999).


United States Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit: Cramer v. Consol. Freightways, Inc., 209 F.3d 1122, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000).

Central District: Murray v. Tatitlek Training Servs., No. 5:12-CV-00099-R(SPx), 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131836, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2012).

Eastern District: Wright v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-01681-KJM-EFB, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148459, at *14 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 15, 2013).

Northern District: Kohli v. McKesson Corp., No. C 13-03199 CRB, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151821, at *6-7 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 22, 2013).

Southern District: Yocum v. Rockwell Medical Techs., No. 3:12-cv-0568-GPC-MDD, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61715, at *11-13 (S.D. Cal. April 30, 2013).

2 Issues and Defenses to Claim for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy

(1) Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 431.30(b)(2) (pleading affirmative defenses), and other standard defenses. See Chapter 1 for all defenses.

(2) Statute of Limitations: “[W]hen an employee alleges that his or her employment has been terminated in violation of public policy, a cause of action will accrue at the time of dismissal for the purpose of the statute of limitations” and not the notification of the termination. Romano v. Rockwell International, Inc., 14 Cal. 4th 479, 501 (1996). The statute of limitations of the statutory prohibition cited in support of the claim determines the applicable statute of limitations. Acuna v. San Diego Gas & Electric Co., 217 Cal. App. 4th 1402, 1420 (2013).

(3) Failure to Rehire or Extend Contract: A claim cannot be stated in connection with “a decision not to rehire an employee whose contract would expire on its own terms.” Touchstone Television Productions v. Superior Court, 208 Cal. App. 4th 676, 683 (2012).

(4) Labor Code § 132a: Labor Code § 132a, which forbids retaliation for assertion of worker compensation rights, cannot form the basis for a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Dutra v. Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta, 209 Cal. App. 4th 750, 755 (2012).