California Labor Code Section 923 - Interpretation

Labor Code section 923 provides, in pertinent part: "Negotiation of terms and conditions of labor should result from voluntary agreement between employer and employees. Governmental authority has permitted and encouraged employers to organize in the corporate and other forms of capital control. In dealing with such employers, the individual unorganized worker is helpless to exercise actual liberty of contract and to protect his freedom of labor, and thereby to obtain acceptable terms and conditions of employment. Therefore it is necessary that the individual workman have full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of his own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of his employment, and that he shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor, or their agents, in the designation of such representatives or in self-organization or in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." In Gelini v. Tishgart (1999) 77 Cal.App.4th 219, the plaintiff told her employer she was pregnant. After the employer reduced her hours and pay, the plaintiff retained legal counsel. Her attorney sent the employer a letter proposing a resolution. Instead, the employer terminated the plaintiff. (Id. at pp. 222-223.) Relying on an earlier case extending the rights contained in Labor Code section 923 to individuals, the Gelini court held that terminating the plaintiff in retaliation for the letter received from the attorney violated Labor Code section 923 and could form the basis of a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. (Id. at pp. 224-228.) In so holding, however, the Gelini court expressed reservations about this reading of Labor Code section 923 as extending rights to individuals. (Id. at p. 226.)