(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this employment discrimination/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
The other temporal nexus which is significant is the one between Ms. Church’s termination and her December 5,2006 complaint to Stan Brown, COO of the Kaiser Medical Center, about how her chain of command, including Richard White and Charles Smith, was ineffectual in addressing workplace safety issues. Mr. Oliver responded to Ms. Church’s initial request for assistance by requiring her to go through the same chain of command, and copying Charles Smith on the email, thereby alerting Mr. Smith that Ms. Church was complaining about the ineffectiveness of the chain of command.
Mr. Oliver did nothing to investigate or prevent Ms. Church’s subsequent termination for wrongful reasons. See Coszalter v. City of Salem (9th Cir.2003) 320 F.3d 968, 977 (employee can show that complaints were a substantial motivating factor in an adverse employment action by introducing evidence regarding the proximity in time between his speech and the allegedly retaliatory action); See also Lujan v. Minagar (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th.1040, 1046 (wrongful termination under Labor Code Sec. 6310 includes preemptive retaliation against employees whom an employer fears will file workplace safety complaints).
Kaiser argues that Church 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 Church’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, “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 (emphasis added by counsel). 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. (emphasis by court). 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 Kaiser disputes that Ms. Church’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 Kaiser Sacramento. (See Part 8 of 11.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.