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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Prue v. Brady Company: Plaintiff Sufficiently Alleged Wrongful Termination in Violation of the Public Policy against Disability Discrimination

In Prue v. Brady Company/San Diego, Inc. (Cal.App. 11/17/15), the plaintiff sued the defendant for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, alleging that the defendant terminated him after he suffered a work-related injury. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, and the Court of Appeal reversed, holding as follows:

"Because the gist of Brady's motion was not the absence of disputed material facts but was instead whether Prue's complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a cause of action, its motion for summary judgment was, in effect, a motion for judgment on the pleadings."

The complaint "sufficiently alleged essential facts to inform Brady that [Prue] was alleging a common law cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of FEHA's public policy against disability discrimination." The complaint alleged: "(1) Prue suffered from a disability (i.e., a musculoskeletal injury); (2) he was capable of performing the essential functions of his position; (3) he was subjected to an adverse employment action (i.e., termination of his employment) because of his disability; and (4) Brady knew of his disability when it decided to terminate his employment."

The complaint did not allege only a violation of Labor Code section 132a, which prohibits retaliation against an employee who files a worker's compensation claim.

The one-year statute of limitations for violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) does not apply to a common law claim for wrongful termination. Instead, the two-year limitations period under Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 applies.

If the complaint had not adequately alleged the wrongful termination claim, the trial court would have abused its discretion in rejecting Prue's request for leave to amend.

The opinion is available here

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