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Terminated in Violation of Public Policy

A recent case litigated by a plaintiff’s attorney in LA (not in our firm), reminds us of the importance of being specific when you complain about illegalities at work. For attorneys, the lesson is to be very specific in mentioning the exact law that was believed to have been violated. In this case alleging a California employee’s termination in violation of public policy, unfortunately, nothing specific was alleged and as a result the court threw the case out on summary judgment and the toss was affirmed on appeal. Khdrlaryanvs. Olympic Medical Center.2013 ///////wk 4814990. (unpublished).

Here, plaintiff, a respiratory therapist, alleged she was fired because she complained about “safety issues at her hospital and that she was slandered (defamed) in the termination. Basically, she had complained about staffing levels but did not allege the specific laws that were violated as a result of this under staffing. She relied generally on California Labor Code Section 6310 – 6312 and that she was a whistle blower under Labor Code 1102.5. (Just to be safe she also alleged general violations under California’s Business and Professions Code for unfair business practices, also in a general way).

As to her defamation claim, the plaintiff argued that she had in fact waited for another respiratory therapist and therefore did not “abandon” the patient. However, the employee also admitted that she had left the patient’s immediate area before other therapists arrived. As this made the statement “abandoned”  a true statement, the court found there was actually no slander. (Remember, libel is written falsehoods and slander is oral. I remember is as Slander = Spoken.).

Our Los Angeles Employment Attorney office has represented many Hospital workers at all levels who have complained of under staffing, code violations, and illegal marketing schemes. This is a complex area of law in which expert guidance is required. Even before you find yourself fired, do the research or call us to determine what specific laws may have been violated. Also, be aware that the law currently requires a complaint to be filed within six months under California Labor Code 98.6 if a claim of retaliation is going to be made. California’ Department of Industrial Relations and the US Department of Laborare two agencies we routinely deal with in regard to complaints about unsafe working conditions.