Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss. However, §§ 206(a) and 206.5 have a scope far narrower than Plaintiff suggests. Section 206(a) states that when a wage dispute involves both disputed and undisputed amounts, an employer must pay the undisputed amounts and the employee may seek relief for the amount in dispute. Cal. Labor Code § 206(a) (West 1982). "Section 206 is designed to secure to the wage earner prompt payment of all wages concededly due and it expressly precludes an employer's coercing a settlement of disputed claims by offering conditional payment." Reid v. Overland Machined Products, 55 Cal. 2d 203, 359 P.2d 251, 253-4, 10 Cal. Rptr. 819 (1961). There is nothing in § 206(a) to suggest that an employer cannot act against an employee who files suit to recover the disputed amount, or that there is a public policy interest in having employees sue their employers unimpeded. Moreover, § 206.5, which deals with the execution of releases, is inapplicable in this case and does not address the question of an employee's right to sue free of retaliation by an employer.
Returning to the California Supreme Court's opinion in Gantt, 1 Cal. 4th 1083, 824 P.2d 680, the Court admonished trial courts presented with the problem of defining a public to "venture into this area, if at all, with great care and due deference to the judgment of the legislative branch 'lest they mistake their own predilections for public policy which deserves recognition at law.'" Id. (citing Hentzel v. Singer Co., 138 Cal. App. 3d 290, 188 Cal. Rptr. 159, 163 ). It is the spirit of this admonition which underscores the requirement that any asserted public policy be rooted in the California Constitution or within a statute. Plaintiff has cited numerous constitutional and statutory provisions, but none serve to clearly identify and support a public policy favoring free access to the courts without fear of reaction by the defendant.
The question raised by Plaintiff's cause of action for alleged retaliation has been considered by California courts. In Becket v. Welton Becket & Associates, 39 Cal. App. 3d 815, 114 Cal. Rptr. 531 (1974), the California Court of Appeal, Second District, held that limitations on the power of employers to terminate at-will employees have been recognized to prevent retaliation for actions by the employee which ar protected by public policy. Id. at 533. However, the plaintiff in Becket, who was suing his employer as the executor of an estate and was threatened with termination for doing so, was unable to identify any statutory basis for a right to sue without retaliation. The Court held that:
An executor stands in a fiduciary relationship to the heirs and has a duty to protect their legal rights in the estate . . . That duty is not owed to the general public but instead is private in nature. As trustee of the estate the executor is not a public officer with a public trust . . . His acceptance of the position of executor and his decision to embark on the litigation were not mandated by any law . . . The fidelity which the employer demanded and which it had a right to expect from plaintiff was not illegal in nature.
Id. at 534 (emphasis added).
The holding in Becket was reaffirmed eleven years later in Khanna v. Microdata Corp., 170 Cal. App. 3d 250, 215 Cal. Rptr. 860 (1985). The California Court of Appeal, First District, explained Becket as follows:
Becket v. Welton Beket & Associates [citation omitted] does provide authoriity for the proposition that "public policy" does not limit the power of an employer to discharge under an "at will contract" in retaliation for the filing of a lawsuit against the employer . . . The theory adopted in Becket would insulate the employer only against tort liability grounded on a violation of public policy . . .
Id. at 867 n.3. The Khanna court distinguished between actions by an employe which violate public policy and those which give rise only to an action for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Id. at 867.
Combining the cases cited above with Plaintiff's inability to persuasively ground his claim of a public policy violation in any state constitutional or statutoory provisions, Plaintiff's fourth cause of action for retaliation must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
While the Court is granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the fourth cause of action, nothing in this Order should be interpreted as an assessment of the Plaintiff's remaining causes of action. The analysis by the Court presented above is intentionally limited to the issue of the alleged retaliatory actions in violation of public policy. The Court reserves its judgment on the remaining causes of action.
Accordingly, Defendants motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: July 23, 1992
HONORABLE JAMES WARE
United States District Judge
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.