WRONGFUL TERMINATION I EMPLOYMENT I CORONAVIRUS – Legal Questions about Coronavirus and Employment
March 26, 2020
A common question on everyone’s mind, how is the California Stay at Home Order affecting Employee rights. In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, the state of California has issued a stay at home order which has jeopardized job security for many resident employees.
In 1980, the California Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Tameny v Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 C3d 167, 164 CR 839. In Tameny, an employee, alleged that she was fired for refusing to participate in a price-fixing scheme that would have violated state and federal antitrust laws. Upon reviewing the lower courts’ holdings, the California Supreme Court held that a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy gives rise to tort damages (27 C3d at 178).
Specifically the Court held: “[A]n employer’s authority over its employee does not include the right to demand that the employee commit a criminal act to further its interests, and an employer may not coerce compliance with such unlawful directions by discharging an employee who refuses to follow such an order. An employer engaging in such conduct violates a basic duty imposed by law upon all employers.”
In Tameny the Court found that because the employer’s duty to refrain from discharging an employee for refusing to commit a crime “reflects a duty imposed by law upon all employers in order to implement the fundamental public policies embodied in the state’s penal statutes, “a wrongful termination action is a tort cause of action. 27 C3d at 176. The court in the precedent case based its decision on a need to implement “fundamental public policies”.
Recently Governor Gavin Newsom invoking state police power issued a “stay-at-home order” (also known as the “Shelter-in-place order”), as an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus). This official state mandate is fundamental to preserve the health and safety of the public. Employers are under a duty to refrain from discharging an employee for refusing to abide by the order.
The state of California advises: “Stay home except for essential needs … The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.” If you have any questions regarding the Stay at home order, we direct you to the Official State of California website: https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/
If you were terminated for refusing to report to work in violation of the stay at home order or during or because of your concerns regarding the Coronavirus, you should contact our offices immediately. Learn your rights and get some advice on how to best proceed. We encourage you to contact our offices at 619-432-5145 for a free consultation with one of our employment attorneys to discuss your Covid-19 termination case or Coronavirus wrongful termination case.
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