An EDD judge is not necessarily qualified to advise on whether or not your termination is actionable as a wrongful termination. Franky, I think he or she was wrong.
An actionable wrongful termination is one where the termination is in violation of a long-standing fundamental public policy of the state. Terminating someone for complaining about someone openly smoking marijuana is likely not sufficient to support such a claim. Further, reporting the smoking of Gpens may not be sufficient either.
All that said, there may be much more than you have posted, and I suppose there is. You would be well served to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Good luck to you.
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The legal standard for collecting UI benefits is entirely different than the legal standard for proving wrongful termination. In a benefits hearing, the claimant typically need only prove they weren't terminated for "misconduct." In a wrongful termination suit, on the other hand, the claimant must typically show they were terminated for an illegal reason, such as race discrimination, or retaliation for engaging in certain legally protected activity. "At will" employees can be terminated without cause, so it is not enough to show that you were terminated for no good reason.
"Retaliation" claims are far more restricted than people think. Generally speaking, an employee can't simply report wrongful or illegal conduct of his or her superiors internally. In order to be protected as a "whistle blower," the complaint must typically be lodged with a government enforcement agency (i.e., reporting insider trading to the SEC). I am unaware of any statutory protection afforded to individuals who simply file an internal report for drug use in the workplace.
All of this is to say that you may have misunderstood the implications of your victory with the EDD. Receiving benefits does not mean your termination was illegal, and reporting drug use generally does not give rise to a retaliation/wrongful termination claim.
This answer is a general interpretation of the law and is not fact specific to your case. Likewise it does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for a review of your specific facts and documents.Ask a similar question
Not only does "wrongful termination" have different meanings in court and in an EDD proceeding, but the hearing officer's statement has no bearing on any right you may have to sue your employer. EDD decisions do not bind the courts, and the judge's statement was hearsay. A court would reach its own conclusion about wrongful termination without considering one bit what the hearing officer said.
If you think you were wrongfully terminated, and like Mr. Pederson I do not see anything that would suggest you were, consult an employment lawyer.Ask a similar question
As pointed out, the standard for a determination of unemployment benefits is different than that of a civil action for wrongful termination. However, I believe your termination does "smell bad" in that a termination can be "wrongful" not only if it was based on an unlawful basis (race, age, gender, etc.) but also on an employee exercising legal protected rights (including "blowing the whistle" and other public policy bases). Prior to a civil suit, there are agency complaints and negotiation which may give you potentially monetary and non-monetary benefits (cleaning up your "record") which you can discuss privately and without obligation with an experienced attorney. Many offer free consultations and any additional facts and obligations can be explored along with potential options for you.Ask a similar question
Marijuana laws and criminal charges Hearsay in criminal cases Employment Unemployment compensation Discrimination in the workplace Gender discrimination in the workplace Protections against employer retaliation Termination of employment Wrongful termination of employment Types of employment At-will employment Lawsuits and disputes Civil rights Appeals Gender discrimination Discrimination