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Judge: Former San Diego County worker can't move forward with suit

When employees in San Diego have reason to believe that their employers or colleagues are engaging in unlawful or unethical business practices, they may be concerned about what will happen to them if they choose to report or ignore their suspicions.

If employees ignore their suspicions and let the alleged unlawful practices continue, could they be held partially responsible in the end if their employers or colleagues are later found guilty of such actions? If employees do choose to raise concerns about illegal or unethical business practices, could they be fired if their suspicions are wrong?

When an employee is certain that something is not right, who can they talk to without risking their jobs or reputations?

Employees who expose employers' unlawful and unethical business practices may be at risk of losing their jobs if they violate company policies when doing so. For this reason, it is extremely important that employees consult an experienced employment law attorney when they need to report suspicious activities. Some companies have very strict policies when it comes to reporting unethical business practices, and when these policies are violated in any way, an employee may be fired simply for trying to do the right thing.

For example, a man who worked for the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association was fired in 2011 after he reported that the county was possibly violating policies that were in place to prevent the county from making risky investments. The employee had given documents to support his claims to outside parties, but this supposedly violated the county's employment policies and gave the county reason to fire the employee.

The employee challenged the termination, but the Civil Service Commission concluded that the firing was not unlawful and that the employee did not have a valid whistle-blower claim.

The former county fund investment officer then filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against his employer in federal court, arguing that he was fired for exposing unethical and illegal business practices. Unfortunately, a judge has recently decided to dismiss the man's lawsuit. The judge concluded earlier this month that the Civil Service Commission gave the former employee a fair hearing regarding his termination and whistle-blower claim.

The former employee still believes that his termination was unlawful. The man may now consider filing an appeal with the Ninth Circuit to contest the termination.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pension employee loses suit over firing," Jeff McDonald, March 22, 2013

  • Our Southern California firm handles a variety of complex employment law and job rights issues, including whistle-blower, workplace retaliation and wrongful termination complaints from federal or private employees. To learn more about employees' rights and protecting your rights in the workplace, please visit our San Diego employment law attorneys page.