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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brown v. County of L.A.: Court of Appeal Reverses Judgment for Unlicensed Psychologist in Wrongful Termination Action

Just a quick note on this case.  In Brown v. County of Los Angeles (3/1/12) 203 Cal.App.4th 1529, a former county employee brought a retaliation and wrongful termination action against the county after it discharged her from her employment as a clinical psychologist. The trial court (Los Angeles Superior, Judge Soussan Bruguera) entered judgment after jury trial for Brown, and the County appealed. 

The County argued that the trial court erred by excluding evidence that Brown's employment as a psychologist required her to obtain a license from the State Board of Psychology, that Brown understood she had to obtain such a license but failed to do so, and that she was discharged for failure to do so. Brown argued that she was exempt under Business and Professions Code section 2910.  

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding: 
The trial court erred "by concluding that Brown was licensed pursuant to state law at the time of her discharge."  203 Cal.App.4th at 1545.  
The trial court erred "by concluding that Brown came within the licensing exemption set forth in Business and Professions Code section 2910 at the time she was discharged from her employment."  203 Cal.App.4th at 1546. 
The trial court's exclusion of the County's evidence that Brown was not licensed or exempt at the time of her termination "precluded the County from establishing a legitimate nonretaliatory reason for terminating Brown's employment."  203 Cal.App.4th at 1550.  
The Court remanded for a new trial.  

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