Attorney Case Law Update: Green v. Ralee Engineering Company – Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who focuses his practice on wrongful termination cases. Call for a free consultation with an attorney.
Facts of the Case
While this is not new case, it is an important one. Richard Green worked for Ralee Engineering Company, a company that manufactured airplane parts major aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Northrop. Mr. Green was a quality control inspector.
In 1990, Mr. Green noticed that his company was shipping some airplane parts even though they failed the inspections his QA team performed. On several occasions over the next two years, Plaintiff objected to Ralee’s practice to management and the company president. He was ignored. What is important to note is that Mr. Green did not report his company to outside governmental authorities or to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Two years after he started making complaints, Mr. Green was “laid off.”
Legal Position – Was this a Valid Wrongful Termination Case?
The big question for the case was whether FAA “administrative regulations” pertaining to the manufacture of airplane parts could be a source of fundamental public policy that would limit an employer’s right to fire an at-will employee. Congress gave the FAA the obligation to promote safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing minimum standards required in the interest of safety for the design, material, construction, quality of work, and performance of aircraft. The FAA, in turn, established a intricate regulatory scheme in order to ensure that aircraft design meets safety standards and aircraft manufacture conforms to the design.
These regulations require manufacturers (such as Boeing) to establish quality control inspection programs for components they produce and ensure their subcontractors do the same. Protecting airline passengers, therefore, is the relevant fundamental public policy at issue. The significant safety regulations that the FAA promulgated to implement the act, which require prime manufacturers to establish detailed inspection systems for components they produce and to ensure that their subcontractors or suppliers do the same, are implicated in this case.
In the end, the California Supreme Court held that Mr. Green was allowed to move forward with his wrongful termination claim. “Allowing defendant to discharge plaintiff with impunity after he sought to halt or eliminate its alleged inspection practices would only undermine the important and fundamental public policy favoring safe air travel.” Mark this down as a victory for employees throughout California.