Tameny Claim Strikes Out Against Employer

Attorney Nicholas Kanter

Nicholas Kanter | Shareholder

September 25, 2019

Employee lawsuits for wrongful termination often allege claims for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and public policy. The public policy claim, often referred to as a “Tameny” claim, is based on a California Supreme Court case which held: “where the employer’s motivation for [a] discharge contravenes some substantial public policy principle, then the employer may be held liable to the employee for damages…”  

The California Court of Appeal in Williams v. Sacramento River Cats Baseball Club refused to extend the reach of a Tameny claim to a job applicant.

In Williams, the plaintiff (Williams) applied for the assistant visitor clubhouse manager position with the Sacramento River Cats. Williams did not get the job and subsequently sued the River Cats for “Failure to Hire” based on “Race Discrimination in Violation of Public Policy,” as articulated by the Act under Government Code section 12940, subdivision (a), which prohibits prospective employers from refusing to hire individuals based on race. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit and Williams appealed.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal for a simple reason: Williams was not the River Cats’ employee.

The Court reasoned that whether a violation of public policy claim can be asserted depends on whether “an employment relationship existed giving rise to a duty not to violate public policy.” Because Williams was only a job applicant, not an employee, the River Cats did not owe Williams a duty. While the Court noted Williams could not pursue a Tameny claim, he may bring a claim under the FEHA.

Nicholas Kanter is a Shareholder in our Employment Practice Group.

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