Gordon & Rees Los Angeles Partners Stephen E. Ronk and Anthony J. Bellone, and Associate Sat Sang S. Khalsa, recently obtained a summary judgement on behalf of the firm's client, a manufacturer of airplane components, in San Bernardino County Superior Court.
The Plaintiff, a quality control inspector, was terminated after making statements to a co-worker about shooting “people that upset him” in the workplace. Post-termination, the employer conducted a background check on the Plaintiff, and discovered multiple serious violent felonies and a period of incarceration.
The Plaintiff did not disclose the felonies on his job application, and had invented an employer to cover the gap in his employment history during the period of incarceration. In filing suit for wrongful termination and retaliation, the Plaintiff alleged that the stated reason for his termination was pretextual based on his threat to report fraudulent testing and forged signatures to “the authorities.” It was not disputed that the Plaintiff had complained about his electronic signature being used without his consent, or that the Plaintiff had routinely complained about testing procedures. Indeed, the Plaintiff’s job as a quality control inspector required him to report concerns about manufacturing and testing process, and he had vocally expressed his concerns from day one on the job.
Defense moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the termination was for legitimate reasons, namely a credible threat to shoot employees, and further that the deliberate omission of prior felony convictions, as well as the fabrication of the past employer to mask the Plaintiff’s theory of incarceration, barred the Plaintiff’s claims as a matter of After Acquired Evidence. In Opposition, the Plaintiff argued that the termination was pretextual, that there had been no investigation into whether he had even made such a threat, and the proximity in time to his protected activity, along with a pattern of retaliation, were sufficient to create a triable issue of fact. The Plaintiff’s lone explanation for the failure to disclose his prior record was a subject belief that disclosure was not required for felonies older than 10 years. On Reply, Defense showed that there was no evidence of a pattern of retaliation, and further that the Plaintiff had failed to disclose convictions even within his subjective 10 year felony rule.
In granting summary judgment, the Court found that based on the evidence presented, the Plaintiff’s termination was based on a credible threat, and not tied to the Plaintiff’s history as a serial complainer. In addition, given the failure to disclose his past felonies, and the fabrication on his employment application, the Court also concluded that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the After Acquired Evidence defense.