False Imprisonment by Employer Claim In California

Fermino v. Fedco, Inc. (1994) 7 Cal. 4th 701 held that the plaintiff stated a cause of action for false imprisonment, and that false imprisonment committed by an employer against an employee was always outside the scope of the compensation bargain. (Fermino v. Fedco, Inc., supra, 7 Cal. 4th at pp. 723-724.) Because the intentional tort of false imprisonment involves criminal conduct against the employee's person, it is not a normal part of the employment relationship and lies outside the compensation bargain. (Id. at pp. 721-722.) Fermino qualifies this statement, however, by saying that regulatory crimes, such as violations of health and safety standards or special orders, remain within the normal course of employment and within the WCA. (Id. at p. 723, fn. 7) Unlike many other states, in California workers' compensation provides the exclusive remedy for at least some intentional torts committed by an employer. (Fermino v. Fedco, Inc., supra, 7 Cal. 4th at p. 709.) Fermino described a "tripartite system for classifying injuries arising in the course of employment. First, there are injuries caused by employer negligence or without employer fault that are compensated at the normal rate under the workers' compensation system. Second, there are injuries caused by ordinary employer conduct that intentionally, knowingly or recklessly harms an employee, for which the employee may be entitled to extra compensation under section 4553. Third, there are certain types of intentional employer conduct which bring the employer beyond the boundaries of the compensation bargain, for which a civil action may be brought." (7 Cal. 4th at pp. 713-714.)