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California Government Employee Whistle Blower Wins One Million Dollars

Melody Jo Samuelson worked as a clinical psychologist for the State of California Department of Mental Health. She complained that the hospital’s trial competency procedures were out of compliance with legal guidelines and that the hospital retaliated against her in several ways. First, by suspending her hospital privileges; then by demanding that she endure a peer view process that in and of itself violated medical staff rules or bylaws. She was eventually terminated; however,  the State Personnel Board ordered her reinstated. Defendant hospital claimed that it did not retaliate against her but that it disciplined her because of alleged testimony she gave at a competency hearing. The jury wasn’t buying that and awarded her one million dollars for emotional distress and loss of income. Melody Jo Samuelson vs. California Department of Mental Health, et al, No 26-57631.

Retaliation is illegal under both the California Government Code if based on a protected category, such as age, sex, race, national origin, religious or physical or mental condition, and the Labor Code. Section 1102.5 makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee for refusing to engage in an illegal activity or reporting same. Retaliation may consist of any “adverse” job action. Examples of retaliation for engaging in protected activity could include demotion, reduction in pay,  assignment to a distant work location, harassment, and termination itself, such as Melody Jo complained of herein. California has recently clarified that a “lead” foreman or supervisor, who may not even have the title of supervisor, is in fact a supervisor for purposes of liability if that person has the power to impose adverse job actions and/or make supervisory-type decisions such as hours to be worked.

This case was heard in the Superior Court for Napa County. Stephen Danz & Associates is California’s leading and largest employee-only law firm and we practice in all major cities and counties in California. We are known as pre-eminent San Francisco Employment Attorneys. Government employees may have additional deadlines and procedures to comply with as opposed to private company employees, so consultation with an experience attorney immediately is critical. Call us for a free consult and chat at any time, even before the dreaded “notice of separation” appears in your mailbox. 877 789 9707.