Employee Must Exhaust Administrative Remedies Before Suing Employer

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In MacDonald v. Superior Court, the court held that an employee must exhaust statutory administrative remedies before filing suit against an employer.

MacDonald worked for the State of California and the California State Assembly in San Joaquin County.  According to his complaint, MacDonald was fired two weeks after complaining that a supervisor had been smoking in the office in violation of the Labor Code and Government Code.

MacDonald sued the State and Assembly under two whistle-blower statutes, alleging retaliatory discharge in violation of Labor Code Section 1102.5 and retaliatory and discriminatory discharge under section 6310.  Both statutes prevent employers from retaliating against employees who complain about noncompliance with state and federal statutes, rules and regulations.

The trial court sustained Defendants’ demurrers without leave to amend on the grounds that MacDonald had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.  The court affirmed.

In so holding, the court relied on the California Supreme Court case Campbell v. Regents of University of California which holds that:

where an administrative remedy is provided by statute, relief must be sought from the administrative body and this remedy exhausted before the courts will act.”

The court noted that sections 1102.5 and 6310 are silent regarding administrative remedies.  However, section 98.7 outlines an administrative process for employees who believe they have been discriminated against.

Because the administrative remedy at issue here is provided by statute,” the court stated, “Campbell controls, and plaintiff was required to exhaust that remedy before pursuing the underlying action.”

The MacDonald court specifically rejected the ruling in Lloyd v. County of Los Angeles in which the Second Appellate District held that “(t)here is no requirement that a plaintiff pursue the Labor Code administrative procedure prior to pursuing a statutory cause of action.”  Finding this ruling to be incorrect, the court noted that Lloyd inexplicably failed to mention Campbell, a California Supreme Court case directly on point.