• An honest mistake is not a firing offense Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Manuel Barbosa sued Impco Technologies in Orange County, claiming he was wrongfully fired in 2007 because of an honest mistake.

    A California Court of Appeal ruled that Barbosa could press his suit, overturning a decision by Superior Court Judge Charles Margines of Orange County who had thrown out thecase.

     Barbosa had been a carburetor assembler and a team leader of eight other workers. When other employees told Barbosa they had not been paid for overtime work, Barbosa became convinced he also had not been paid for two hours of overtime.

    IMPCO’s supervisor said he trusted Barbosa and approved the overtime pay. But the payroll administrator reviewed security tapes and time clocks, and determined that Babosa was not due the extra money. Barbosa was fired, despite his protests that he had become confused and an offer to repay the money.

    Margines granted the employers’s motion to dismiss the case, concluding there “was no public policy requiring an employer to continue to employ an employee who made an unjustified claim for monies.”

    In a decision authored by Justice David G. Sills, the Court of Appeal concluded there was a fundamental public policy that protected Mr. Barbosa’s interest in this claim.

    The justices noted that the company had made mistakes in the past over timekeeping, and said there was evidence that Barbosa had a good faith belief that he was owed the overtime.

    The court said:

    “The courts have been sensitive to the need to protect the individual employee from discriminatory exclusion from the opportunity of employment whether it be by the all-powerful union or employer. The employer is not so absolute a sovereign of the job that there are not limits to his prerogative.”

    Barbosa v. IMPCO Technologies, INC., (G041070) Court of Appeal 4th District Div 3

    Steve Ingram

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