Decision: On October 20, 2015, the California Court of Appeal held, inSheridan v. Touchstone Television Productions, LLC, that an employee need not exhaust his or her administrative remedies before filing suit under California Labor Code section 6310, which prohibits retaliation against an employee who makes a bona fide complaint of “unsafe working conditions or work practices.”
Touchstone hired actress Nicollette Sheridan in 2004 to play the character Edie Britt on the television series Desperate Housewives. The contract was for one season, with the option to renew each year for an additional six seasons. The contract was renewed for five seasons, but after Sheridan complained to Touchstone that Marc Cherry, the show’s creator, struck her during a rehearsal in September 2008, Touchstone chose not to renew her contract for the sixth season. In April 2010, Sheridan sued Touchstone for, inter alia, wrongful termination, alleging that Touchstone fired her because of her complaint about the alleged battery, later amending to add a claim under section 6310. That claim was dismissed due to Sheridan’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies, as required by the California Court of Appeal’s opinion inMacDonald v. State of California. During the Sheridan case, the Labor Code was amended to specify that exhaustion was not required, and the MacDonald case was ordered de-published.
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that the plain language of the statute did not require exhaustion. The panel considered the post-amendment language expressly stating that exhaustion was not required, stating that the amendment simply clarified the existing statutory intent.
Impact: The Court of Appeal’s decision highlights the effect that amendments to the Labor Code may have on pending cases when seen as clarifying, rather than changing, existing statutory language.