wrongful termination lawyer

Former Vallejo City Employees Claim They Were Fired For Whistleblowing

In California, at-will employees can be fired at any time for any reason, even without serious job performance issues. This holds true as long as the reason for an employee’s firing is not illegal, such as in retaliation for filing a complaint about wrongdoing in the workplace.

State whistleblower laws provide employees with important protections, including the right to take legal action against their employer for wrongful termination. Three former City of Vallejo employees filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, claiming they were wrongfully terminated for complaining about the city manager. They are suing for damages that could total $3.8 million or more.

Plaintiffs Will Morat, Joanna Altman and Slater Matzke worked closely with Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff. Morat and Altman were his assistants, while Matzke was employed as a special advisor. They were allegedly fired in retaliation for complaining about Nyhoff’s unethical, corrupt and unlawful conduct in connection with city contracts as well as their participation in an investigation into his actions.

The three employees were fired in April 2020, around a month after the City of Vallejo required them to participate in an independent investigation into Nyhoff’s alleged misconduct. Morat, Altman and Matzke claimed they were all encouraged to be as forthcoming as possible and assured their comments would remain anonymous.

The city hired outside counsel, Christopher Boucher, to oversee an independent investigation after receiving a complaint about Nyhoff’s alleged conduct. Boucher claimed the identities and feedback of the interviewed city employees were not given to Nyhoff. However, he admitted to advising the city manager to fire Morat, Altman and Matzke based on what he learned through the investigation. The investigation did not find any wrongdoing on Nyhoff’s part.

Boucher said the three employees were fired for “bona fide, independent reasons that were unrelated” to what they shared during the investigation interviews. According to the lawsuit, the chief assistant city attorney claimed Nyhoff did not need a reason to fire them as they were at-will employees. Morat, Altman and Matzke, however, alleged they were terminated for expressing their concerns about how he handled sexual harassment and discrimination complaints, along with accusations of corruption and graft.

If you believe you were unlawfully fired for complaining about something at work, contact an experienced San Francisco employment lawyer. McCormack Law Firm can help you determine whether you have a legal claim against your employer.

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