Ferrick v. Santa Clara Univ., 231 Cal. App. 4th 1337 (2014)

Linda Ferrick, a former senior administrator for Santa Clara University, claimed the termination of her employment resulted from her reporting that her supervisor had engaged in what Ferrick believed to be commercial bribery as part of a “kickback scheme.” The trial court sustained the university’s demurrer and dismissed the lawsuit because Ferrick had failed to allege that her discharge violated any fundamental public policy, but the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Ferrick had a reasonable basis to suspect commercial bribery in violation of Cal. Pen. Code § 641.3. The Court further held that the supervisor’s suspected engagement in commercial bribery did not affect just the university’s private interest, but also the public policy embodied in Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5. However, the Court found there to be no reasonably based suspicion on Ferrick’s part that her supervisor had engaged in embezzlement; violation of an administrative regulation; violation of the California Vehicle Code; violation of workplace health and safety hazards (by driving a golf cart without a license); or violation of the California False Claims Act. See also Johnson v. City of Shelby, 574 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 346 (2014) (per curiam) (police officers claiming retaliation in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights need not have expressly invoked 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to avoid dismissal); Tamosaitis v. URS Inc., 771 F.3d 539 (9th Cir. 2014) (whistleblower employee who worked at a nuclear energy site failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Energy Reorganization Act as to some defendants but could proceed with claims against another who received adequate notice; as to that defendant, there was adequate evidence to defeat summary judgment; and employee was entitled to jury trial).