Labor Code 96(k) Interpreted

A number of labor & employment law cases were handed down by California Courts yesterday, but I think this one is most important:

Grinzi v. San Diego Hospice Corp. 4th Dist. Case No. D04231.

Without knowing the full facts of the case, or the position the lawyers were put in, it is somewhat unfair to say this, but, isn't it in the first week of Con Law that the First Amendment only protects against government intrustion?

An employee was term'd, according to her, for participation in the "Women's Garden Circile", according to the employer for unauthorized use of their e-mail system. Here's the beef:

By so specifying rights "otherwise protected by the Labor Code" and "under the
Labor Code," the Legislature has indicated an intention to limit the proscription against
terminations for the exercise of "any rights" to the exercise of those rights "otherwise
protected by the Labor Code." Further, the initial portion of section 98.6, subdivision (a),
proscribes terminations for several kinds of conduct delineated in "this chapter,"
including conduct under section 96, subdivision (k), and "Chapter 5 of Part 3 of Division
2," or filing claims or proceedings with the Labor Commissioner. (See fn. 10, ante.) As
such, these provisions only prohibit terminations for conduct "otherwise protected by the
Labor Code." In this context, the reasonable conclusion is the Legislature also intended
the phrase, "any rights," in the final portion of section 98.6, subdivision (a), to similarly
refer to rights "otherwise protected by the Labor Code." Consequently, for Grinzi's claim
to survive under this provision, she must allege her termination occurred because she
exercised a right protected by the Labor Code. As discussed, Grinzi does not allege she
exercised such a right.

Many had been reading 96(k)/98.6 to limit employee reaction to any outside lawful conduct. Narrowing it to include only rights protected by the LC is dramatic in that regard.