In United States of America ex rel. Darryn Kelly v. Serco, Inc., a California federal district court held that absent evidence that an employer knew of the alleged protected activity, an employee cannot assert a claim under California’s whistleblower statute.

Plaintiff Darryn Kelly was employed as an analyst by Serco, a federal contractor engaged to upcgrade wireless communications systems along the U.S./Mexico border. Mr. Kelly complained to the Department of Homeland Security that Serco employees kept track of their time manually rather than through the required automated system, which resulted in inaccurate and fraudulent reports to the government. Three weeks later, Serco terminated Kelly’s employment, after which he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Serco, claiming that Serco terminated him in retaliation for engaging in protected activity.

The court dismissed the whistleblower claim, because there was no evidence that anyone at Serco was aware of Mr. Kelly’s complaint to DHS prior to the termination of his employment. The court determined that without evidence that Serco knew of the alleged protected activity, a causal link could not be inferred solely from the proximity in time between the termination and the protected activity.