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Violations of a Local Ordinance Cannot Support a Claim for Wrongful Termination.

Recently, in Bruni v. The Edwards Thomas Hospitality Corporation (Bruni), employers received a rare win. The California Court of Appeal determined that a wrongful discharge claim cannot be based upon an alleged violation of a municipal ordinance (a municipal ordinance is a law passed by a municipal government i.e. a city or town, which differs from a law passed by the State of California). While Bruni involved a recall ordinance (a recall ordinance requires a covered employer to offer positions that become available back to qualified employees before hiring new ones) that was adopted in response to 9/11 – its impact is far broader. In Bruni, a restaurant server sued his former employer alleging that his former employer violated a Santa Monica municipal recall order, and, as a result, was wrongfully terminated because the employer failed to rehire the employee based on an alleged public policy expressed in the local ordinance.

Up until this case, it had remained an open question in California as to whether employees and their attorneys, could assert wrongful discharge claims based on the violation of a municipal ordinance as distinguished from a California Statute, for example, California’s Labor Laws. Yet, the Court in Bruni ruled that: “a municipal ordinance cannot serve as the predicate for a tort claim” – a wrongful termination claim “must be predicated on a fundamental public policy that is expressed in a constitutional or statutory provision . . . as opposed to a public policy that finds expression in a municipal ordinance.  Meaning this case, hopefully, will prevent and deter the filing of wrongful termination cases based on any recall ordinances passed by your municipality during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nonetheless, other claims may be alleged against an employer, other than wrongful termination, for violation of municipal ordinances. As such, employers should contact the Employer Lawyers at Chauvel & Glatt to ensure there are not only operating California Labor Code Compliant but in compliance with their local municipalities’ ordinances.

This material in this article, provided by Chauvel & Glatt, is designed to provide informative and current information as of the date of the post. It should not be considered, nor is it intended to constitute legal advice.  For information on your particular circumstances, please contact Chauvel & Glatt at 650-573-9500. (photo credit: 123rf.com)


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