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Thursday, August 29, 2013

MacDonald v. State of California: Employee Must Exhaust Administrative Remedies Before Filing Retaliation Action

Plaintiff Aaron MacDonald alleged: he worked for the State of California and the California State Assembly at one of their offices; he complained to his supervisors that one of them was smoking illegally at the office; and, less than two weeks later, he was fired. Plaintiff filed suit for retaliatory discharge in violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 and retaliatory and discriminatory discharge in violation of Labor Code section 6310.

The trial court sustained demurrers without leave to amend, holding that plaintiff was required to exhaust the administrative remedy set forth in Labor Code section 98.7 before pursuing his statutory claims in court, and that his causes of action for violations of sections 1102.5 and 6310 must be dismissed for failure to previously file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding:
The rule of exhaustion of administrative remedies is well established in California jurisprudence. “In brief, the rule is that where an administrative remedy is provided by statute, relief must be sought from the administrative body and this remedy exhausted before the courts will act.” [Campbell v. Regents of University of California (2005) 35 Cal.4th 311], 321, quoting [Abelleira v. District Court of Appeal (1941) 17 Cal.2d 280], 292. This is so even where the administrative remedy is couched in permissive, as opposed to mandatory, language. (See Williams v. Housing Authority of Los Angeles (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 708, 734.) Here, an administrative remedy is provided in section 98.7. Thus, in accordance with Campbell, we conclude that plaintiff was required to exhaust that remedy prior to pursuing the underlying action. 
Slip op. at 6.

The opinion is available here

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