California Supreme Court Hands Whistleblowers Huge Victory

Today, the California Supreme Court handed whistleblower-employees a resounding victory for claims brought under California Labor Code section 1102.5.   California Labor Code section 1102.5 gives employees protection against retaliation for disclosing their suspicions of illegal conduct in the workplace to their employer and/or authorities.

And, after today’s decision, Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., 2022 WL 244731 (Cal. Jan. 27, 2022), the California Supreme Court makes clear that employees who are fired for multiple reasons need only show that it was more likely than not that at least one of those reasons contributed to the employer’s retaliation.  The employer can then only prevail if it is able to show that it was highly probable that it would have fired the employee “for legitimate, independent reasons” (i.e., the employer would have fired the employee even if the employee had not engaged in protected whistleblowing activities).  

This means that employers will no longer able to hide illegal retaliation behind a litany of other plausible, but not probable, explanations for their retaliation.

According to the Court:

[P]laintiffs may satisfy their burden of proving unlawful retaliation even when other, legitimate factors also contributed to the adverse action.”  This standard encourages “earlier and more frequent reporting of wrongdoing by employees and corporate managers when they have knowledge of specified illegal acts” by “expanding employee protection against retaliation.”

If you believe you have been fired for an illegal reason, please get in touch.