The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES WARE
Defendant Schlumberger Technologies, Inc. ("STI") moves pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Cause of Action, retaliation in violation of public policy, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.
Defendant's motion to dismiss raises the question of what constitutes violations of "public policy." Plaintiff alleges that his employer took adverse employment actions against him because he threatened and ultimately filed a lawsuit against his employer. Plaintiff contends that these alleged actions violate a California public policy: to allow access to the courts free of retaliation. Defendant argues that California does not and should not recognize such a public policy.
Plaintiff has been employed by Defendant as a sales executive since September, 1981. In approximately January, 1986, Defendant assigned Plaintiff to the task of winning back Intel, one of Defendant's major customers. Defendant told Plaintiff the assignment would be a difficult, long-term project and that Plaintiff would not receive any commission income until after the Intel account was reacquired. Moreover, Defendant told Plaintiff that to compensate for the risk and sacrifice involved with this project, Plaintiff would earn substantial commission income after obtaining the account.
Plaintiff accepted this assignment, and worked continously to win back Intel's business. In Spring 1990, Intel made a major purchase of Defendant's equipment, and became Defendant's largest customer. Defendant awarded Plaintiff for his accomplishment and gave him a bonus. Plaintiff alleges he was close to winning back the account in early 1990. Plaintiff claims that, as he was nearing completion of the Intel assignment, Defendant began to take actions designed to undermine Plaintiff's promised commission income.
In 1991, Plaintiff claims he was removed from the Intel account and denied the commission income resulting from his effort to win back the account. Defendant reclassified the account as a "house account" thus permitting all commission income to accrue directly to Defendant, rather than to Plaintiff. After the reclassification, a multi-million dollar purchase contract was signed by the Defendant and Intel. Plaintiff claims the contract was the result of the negotiations he conducted with Intel. Defendant has continued to refuse to pay Plaintiff any commissions resulting from Intel's purchases.
Plaintiff filed suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court alleging four causes of action: 1) breach of contract; 2) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; 3) unjust enrichment; and 4) retaliation in violation of public policy. Defendant subsequently removed the action to this Court based on diversity of citizenship, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Defendant files this motion seeking dismissal of the fourth casue of action, retaliation in violation of public policy. Defendant argues that Plaintiff does not state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Specifically Defendant argues that California law does not recognize a public policy which protects the right to sue one's employer without adverse employment consequences.
"For purpose of the motion to dismiss, the complaint is contrued in the light most favorable to plaintiff and its allegations are taken as true. The court's inquiry is directed to whether the allegations constitute a statement of a claim under Rule 8(a)." Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 1357. The Supreme Court has held:
In appraising the sufficiency of the complaint we follow, of course, the accepted rule that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.
Conley v Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 at 45, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 , 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957).
Plaintiff's cause of action for retaliation in violation of public policy is grounded in the California Supreme Court's decision in Gantt v. Sentry Insurance, 1 Cal. 4th 1083, 824 P.2d 680 (Cal. 1992). The Court outlined four types of cases in which public policy violations tend to arise, including "exercising a statutory right or privilege." Id. at 1648. "This is ...