In the case of Barbee v. Household Auto Finance Corporation, 113 Cal. App. 4th 525 (2003) HAFC terminated the employment of its national sales manager after learning that Barbee had a “special relationship” with one of his subordinate employees. The company fired Barbee after giving him the choice of ending the relationship or affecting his or the subordinate employee’s termination.
Barbee sued HAFC for violation of his right to privacy and wrongful termination in violation of the public policy contained in Labor Code Section 96(k). Section 96(k) prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an employee for any “lawful conduct occurring during non-working hours away from the employer’s premises.”
The Court of Appeal affirmed the employer’s right to terminate Barbee. The Court held that although Barbee may have had a legally protected right to privacy in pursuing an intimate sexual relationship, Barbee had failed to establish that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy given HAFC’s express policy requiring managers to disclose to the company the existence of a “consensual intimate relationship” with a subordinate employee.
For any questions or comments regarding this Labor Law Update please contact attorney Michael Daly of the Daly Law Firm at (619) 525-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.