(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings.)
Foundation argues that Smith was terminated for legitimate reasons, cannot prove otherwise by showing that the reasons were pretext for retaliatory animus, and therefore it should prevail on summary judgment. As Smith’s claim is a state law claim for retaliation, the California Court of Appeal decision in Mamou v. Trendwest Resorts Inc. (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 686, is directly on point. As clarified by the Mamou court, while pretext is certainly a relevant issue…the central issue…whether the evidence as a whole supports a reasoned inference that the challenged action was the product of retaliatory animus. (Id. at 715.) At the summary judgment stage, the court’s duty is to determine whether the employee’s evidence is too weak to sustain a reasoned inference in the employee’s favor. (Id. at 718.) If reasonable competing inferences may be drawn from the facts, summary judgment should be denied. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., supra, 398 US at 157; Lake Nacimiento Ranch Co. v. San Luis Obispo County (9th Cir. 1987) 841 F2d 872, 875.
In this case, while a jury could draw a reasoned inference that the very close proximity in time between Plaintiff’s complaints and her termination was coincidental, the jury could also draw a reasoned inference that the proximity between the two acts was evidence enough of retaliatory animus. Fisher v. San Pedro (1989) 214 Cal.App. 3d 590, 615 (one may infer retaliation by the proximity in time between protected activity and the allegedly retaliatory employment decision.)
While Foundation disputes that Ms. Smith’s termination resulted from her complaints about the continuing violations and the incompetence of her management in addressing those violations, the failure of those managers to address her complaints, the effort to terminated her, and the ludicrous and retaliatory reason for terminating her raises questions of fact for a jury to decide after hearing about the state of patient and staff health and safety at Foundation Rosevile. (See Part 7 of 8.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.