Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Hentzel v. Singer Co.

Argument for Denial of Summary Judgement in a Retaliation Case

The plaintiff’s prima facie burden in a retaliation case is to (1) show he or she engaged in a protected activity, (2) the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action, and (3) a causal link exists between the protected activity and the employer’s action. (McRae v. Dept. of Corr. & Rehab. (2006) 142 Cal. App. 4th 377, 386). Once the plaintiff has established a prima facie case of retaliation, the defendant must provide a legitimate, nonretaliatory explanation. The burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to show this explanation is merely a pretext for the retaliation. (Morgan v. Regents of University of California (2000) 88 Cal.App.4th 52, 68–9.)
An employer is prohibited from retaliating against a complainant who made “a bona fide oral or written complaint to his employer of unsafe working conditions, or work practices, in his employment or place of employment.” (Labor Code § 6310(b).) In order to be protected against discharge, a complainant need only make a good faith complaint about working conditions that he believes to be unsafe. (Cabesuela v. Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 101, 109; Hentzel v. Singer Co. (1982) 138 Cal.App.3d 290, 299.)


Safety for Employees in the Workplace

An employee is protected against discharge or discrimination for complaining in good faith about working conditions or practices which he reasonably believes to be unsafe, whether or not an actual law was being violated. Labor Code § 6310; Hentzel v. Singer Co. (1982) 138 Cal.App.3d 290, 299–300; Green v. Ralee Eng’g Co. (1998) 19 Cal.4th 66, 87; Freund v. Nycomed Amersham (9th Cir. 2003) 347 F.3d 752, 759; Cabesuela v. Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 101, 109. Thus, it is immaterial if the practice was actually unsafe or whether there was an OSHA standard that was actually being violated. The employee need only have complained in good faith about the working conditions or practices.