California Appeals Court Partially Upholds Appeal in Wrongful Discharge Case

In a recent case, the Second District Court of Appeals Division 5 in California issued an opinion in an appeal involving a discharge dispute between an employer and an employee. The plaintiff is a former plant manager for the defendant, FlashCo, a manufacturer of prefabricated roof flashings. The plaintiff contends that he was discharged from his employment by the defendants in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act, also known as the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and public policy. In total, the plaintiff set forth nine causes of action, six for violations of the FEHA, two for violations of the CFRA, one for interference, one for retaliation, and one for violations of public policy. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion, ruling against the plaintiff.

Facts of the Case

As an employee of FlashCo, the plaintiff was hired in 2010 as a production worker. In March 2016, the plaintiff was then hired as a plant manager. During the trial, the plaintiff’s former supervisor testified that the plaintiff was “over his head” in the plant manager role, stating that he never developed into a competent plant manager. According to further testimony from the trial, the plaintiff’s supervisors stated that in 2016 and 2017, the plant managed by the plaintiff was not reaching production levels expected of a plant of that level. In February 2018, the plaintiff experienced neck and back injuries in an outside automobile accident. By April 2018, the plaintiff was advised that “the sales team was concerned about [his] plant performance” and around that time, he was sent a performance improvement plan (PIP). The plaintiff felt that the PIP set unrealistic expectations. Later that day, the plaintiff had a discussion with his manager and was given three options, (1) abide by the PIP, (2) accept a demotion to operations supervisor, or (3) voluntarily resign and receive a $10,000 payment from the company.

The plaintiff resigned and accepted the payment several days later. In March 2020, the plaintiff commenced his action by filing a complaint against the defendant, setting forth nine total causes of action, with six addressing violations of the FEHA, two addressing violations of the CFRA, one for interference, one for retaliation, and one addressing violations of public policy. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims on a motion for summary judgment from the defendant.

The Court’s Decision

The appeals court opinion addresses the trial court decision, affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding the matter back to the trial court. Regarding the plaintiff’s FEHA claims, the appellate court found that he failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendant knew of his disability, affirming the lower court decision. On the CFRA and wrongful termination issue, the appellate court found that the trial court erred by determining that the plaintiff was required to show that the defendant knew he was disabled. As a result, on those issues, the appellate court decision reversed the trial court’s judgment in part, remanding the matter back to the trial court to address the issue further.

Do You Need a California Employment Law Attorney?

Do you have claims against your employer but worry you signed away your right to sue or don’t have a strong enough case? Your claims may still be valid. Contact a California employment lawyer to discuss your situation. The attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm will review every possible avenue for recovery. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call us today at 310-553-3600.

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