In Prue v. Brady Co./San Diego, Inc., 196 Cal. Rptr. 3d 68 (Cal. Ct. App. 2015), Adam Prue alleged a wrongful termination claim of his employment based upon a work-related injury, which violated the public policy set forth in Labor Code § 132a.
In April 2013, Prue filed a complaint against Brady Co. alleging four causes of action, including a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy (note: Prue did not challenge the trial court's grant of summary adjudication on his other three causes of action). The complaint alleged the trial court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action based on Government Code section 12920,2 which is part of the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA)(§ 12900 et seq.) . The complaint generally alleged Prue was an employee within the meaning of section 12926, subdivision (c), and Brady was an employer within the meaning of sections 12926, subdivision (d), 12940, subdivisions (a), (h), and (j)(4)(A).
The complaint's first cause of action was titled “For Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy” and alleged in part:
- “16. Wrongful termination from employment is [tortious] when the termination occurs in violation of a fundamental public policy. It is well established law that a worker cannot be discriminated against for filing, making, and/or making Plaintiff's intention to file/make a workers' compensation claim. See, Labor Code § 132A. Labor Code § 132A provides, ‘It is the declared policy of this state that there should not be discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment.'
- “17. On or around June 27, 2011, [Prue] suffered a work-related injury that arose out of and during the course of employment.
- “18. [Prue] suffered orthopedic and psychological injuries.
- “19. On the day of the injury, [Prue] was in the course and scope of [his] employment with [Brady] and on [Brady's] property. [Brady] was . . . immediately notified of [Prue's] industrial injury and [he] was treated at an emergency room as approved by [Brady's] manager/supervisor Scott Benson.
- “20. On information and belief, and upon that basis [Prue] alleges, that [Brady] [was] made aware that [Prue] filed and/or had an intention to file and/or make a claim for workers' compensation
benefits arising out of the industrial accident.
- “21. Soon thereafter or on or about June 27, 2011, [Brady] [was] made aware that [Prue] had suffered orthopedic and psychological injuries which affected [his] musculoskeletal and psychological system[s] and work restrictions were given but [Brady] retaliated and discriminated against [Prue] on account of reporting and suffering a work-related injury.
- “22. [Prue] was released from care and despite being capable of completing [his] essential job functions[,] [he] was terminated in July 2011.
- “23. On information and belief, and upon that basis [Prue] alleges, that [Brady's] termination of [Prue] [was] motivated by discrimination and/or retaliation on account of [his] work-related
injury in violation of Labor Code [section] 132a and public policy. [¶] . . . [¶]
- “25. It is well established law that a worker cannot be terminated from his/her employment based solely on a disability. Actions such as these deeply offend public policy. Further, it is well understood that a policy is fundamental when it is carefully tethered to a policy delineated in constitutional or statutory provisions affecting the public at large.”
Trial Court Decision and Subsequent Appeal
On June 3, 2014, the trial court entered judgment for Brady. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Section 132a “cannot be the basis for a tort action for wrongful termination” and that the claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in Section 132a. The trial court also denied Prue's motion for leave to file an amended complaint to add a cause of action for violation of the public policy represented by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Prue timely filed a notice of appeal.
The Court of Appeal reversed and held that the complaint alleged sufficient facts showing that the termination of Prue's employment violated FEHA's public policy against discrimination based upon a disability as well as the public policy supporting Section 132a. Similarly, the Court held that the two-year statute of limitations applicable to common law tort actions applied, not the one-year statute found in Section 132a. The trial court also erroneously denied Prue leave to amend his complaint.
Questions about Wrongful Termination Claim?
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