Retaliation For Filing A Police Report – A Fresno County Dentist Learns An Expensive Lesson

Ms. Cardenas, a dental hygienist, suspected that a co-worker may have stolen her expensive ring.  The last place Ms. Cardenas recalled seeing the ring was on the table in the break room.  Her employer, Dr. Fanaian, did not support her decision to file a police report.  He was also upset when police officers arrived twice at his office to investigate.  Dr. Fanaian told Ms. Cardenas that the situation was causing great tension and discomfort in the office; thus, he was terminating her employment. 

Ms. Cardenas filed a lawsuit that included a cause of action under Labor Code § 1102.5.  This provision prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for making a claim to law enforcement.[1]  Dr. Fanaian contended that Ms. Cardenas could not file a lawsuit under section 1102.5 because her report did not relate to his operations as a dentist. 

The question asked by the court was whether a violation of Labor Code § 1102.5 occurs if the police report is not related to the employer’s operations.   

The court said no, that an employer who retaliates against an employee for filing a police report, whether or not it relates to business operations, is liable under section 1102.5.  All that the employee must show is that she engaged in a protected activity such as filing a police report; was subject to adverse action, such as termination of employment; and a connection between these actions, such as timing of the termination. 

In this case, the jury concluded that Dr. Fanaian fired Ms. Cardenas because she had filed a police report.  That is all that was necessary.  The report need not be related to the employer’s conduct or its business operations. 

What did it cost Dr. Fanaian to learn this lesson?  The jury awarded $117,768 to Ms. Cardenas in damages.  The court awarded her attorneys’ fees in the amount of $162,311.50.  And of course, Dr. Fanaian paid his attorneys for handling the case. 

By the way, the ring was found at the workplace the day after Ms. Cardenas was fired. 

Read the opinion here:

[1] Labor Code § 1102.5 is a very broad statute.  It pertains to reports not only to law enforcement, but also to persons within the company.  It pertains to reports filed and reports that have not been filed!  It applies to actions that may not even be criminal in nature.  The statute states:  An employer … shall not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information, to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or for providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.