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I was terminated due to discovery that a very old construction specification violated public policy. Is the firing illegal?

Redlands, CA |

Violation of environmental policy, LAMetro policy on wasteful spending, very out dated criteria used for multiple billion dollar construction projects that cause massive overspending and net loss to the environment. When I asked how to repair something that was impacting all my current projects with unscientific, in accurate outdated standard and criterias (changed at DHS in 1986, for assessing hazardous waste, that impacted million sof dollars of over spending, I was terminated. Is this retaliation?

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Attorney answers 5


Being terminated for reporting a concern that a company is violating a construction safety standard could form the basis of a wrongful termination or whistleblower claim. Based on your question, I am not exactly sure what specific regulation you feel was violated and how this caused your termination. We would need more details.


You might have a viable claim for wrongful termination. Although employment contracts are generally terminable at will (Labor Code § 2922), California courts recognize a narrow exception to this rule: “[A]n employer's traditional broad authority to discharge an at-will employee may be limited by statute ... or by considerations of public policy.” (Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 Cal.3d 167, 172.)

To establish a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, each of the following must be proved: (1) an employer-employee relationship; (2) employer terminated plaintiff's employment (or took other adverse employment action); (3) a “nexus” exists between the termination and the employee's protected activity; (4) the termination was a legal cause of plaintiff's damage; and (5) the nature and the extent of plaintiff's damage. (See Holmes v. General Dynamics Corp. (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 1418, 1426; see also CACI 2430.)

You'll need to provide more facts to an employment litigation attorney.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


What you describe may be unlawful retaliation but further information and analysis is needed. Based on what you have provided it would be well worth your while to have a free consultation with an employment lawyer. Good luck.

Law Offices of Linh T. Nguyen 916.509.7200 Disclaimer: This reply is not intended to be and does not constitute legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. I always recommend consulting with an attorney, especially since many attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations.


Written complaints are helpful to proving a case of retaliation. So is close proximity in time between the complaint and the termination. If you have a stellar track record of employment, that helps, too.

If you are a public employee, that may impact your remedies and your choice of legal representation. The rules can be different and there are legal traps for the unwary.

Also, if you have information on government ripoff, you can be a "whistleblower" and obtain a bounty for recovering money for the government. This is an extremely risky, potentially life-changing undertaking, and you can find support from some outstanding citizen-lawyers who are great at these cases.

Lots to consider. . . .

I hope you get justice.

David Mallen

David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding your legal question, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen offer no-risk legal consultations to employers and employees at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.


Whistleblowers are employees who refuse to violate the law, or who report wrongdoing that harms the public or has the potential to harm the public. The wrongdoer can be a private employer, a private entity, a federal, state or local government, or another employee. Usually, but not always, the wrongdoing benefits the person or entity that engages in the wrongdoing. Harm to the public may be caused by inflated prices, dangerous products, environmental harm, and more.

Whistleblowers are protected by law. The purpose of whistleblower protection laws is to allow employees to report, stop or testify about this kind of wrongdoing, as a benefit to the public. Note that complaints about wrongdoing that only harm the employer itself are not protected by whistleblowing laws. Many whistleblower laws have a very short time period in which to file a claim. Please see my Avvo guide to whistleblowers for more information about whistleblowing: *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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