Judge Judy/Retaliatory firing question

This concerns an episode that aired yesterday. A limo company owner was suing a husband and wife (former employees) for damage that he alleged the wife had done to three of his limos. She had acknowledged and paid for damage to one that she had driven, but he had no evidence that she had damaged the others.

There was a counter claim for unlawful termination. The judge asked the owner why he fired the husband. The owner said it was because he was docking the husband’s pay to cover the alleged damage, and the husband had told him that was illegal and that he would report him if he didn’t pay his full wages. Judge Judy forcefully told him that yes, it was absolutely illegal for him (the owner) to dock his employees wages. But she still dismissed the counter claim, saying that he could fire employees at will for any or no reason. But shouldn’t the employee have been protected by the whistleblower protection act? I know it’s hard to prove, but in this case the employer not only admitted, he volunteered in court that he fired him in retaliation for calling him out on an illegal act.

From here:

All three steps were proven, yet she dismissed the claim.

Maybe it was because he fired him before he reported it?

That old hag tends to hand out verdicts based on whether she likes you or not, not so much based on the letter of the law

There was no step 1. It was a dispute over pay, he got his pay, there was no crime. Even if such a crime could be proven it would have to be covered under some whistleblower law, and the federal law certainly doesn’t cover this circumstance.

Judge Judy is technically acting is an arbitrator - that is, she is not bound by the law in the same way a judge would be.

The plaintiffs and defendants agree to accept the ‘verdict’ no matter - if the defendant loses and is forced to ‘pay,’ the show covers the cost. Everybody comes out happy.

She’s the boss, apple sauce!

Your link goes to a general discussion of federal law:

So I’d imagine that the three prongs you laid out relate to proof in a federal wrongful termination suit.

Judge Judy is an arbiter, and moreover (so far as I know) draws her cases from state courts. So I doubt she was purporting to arbitrate a federal cause of action.

I’m not actually sure which state’s laws she applies; the show films in California but Schiendlin was a judge of the New York Family Court.

Sure there was. He was opposing his employer’s illegal action. He was fired because of it. The employer acknowledged that he fired him in retaliation. An employer can’t make putting up with illegal actions a condition of employment.

If it was a question of jurisdiction, shouldn’t she have said that and dismissed it without prejudice?

I think they apply the law where the dispute took place.

It wasn’t established that the employer committed a crime. It’s easy to throw around the word illegal. You’d have to show that what the employer was doing under the circumstances was a crime, not that easy to do. I doubt you can find a case where an employer was ever charged with a crime under those circumstances.

But it was established. The employer acknowledged docking the employee’s pay. The judge told him in no uncertain terms that docking his pay was an illegal action.

She said he couldn’t do that. I don’t recall Judge Judy saying he committed a crime. What is the law that was violated? Saying it’s illegal to dock a husband’s pay for his wife’s debt does not mean a crime was committed. Isolated payroll disputes are not the purpose of whistleblower laws either.

Really? I’d be surprised to learn that Scheindlin spends the research time necessary to do that, but I suppose it’s possible.

Even so, I’d be more surprised to learn she treated this action as both federal and state.

Not if she were resolving the state law claim, no. Nor does the loss of the state claim mean that a federal action is res judicata. (I don’t think – not really my area of law).

She has a staff for that. I haven’t watched the show in many years but I recall that she would refer to the law in a particular state when it wasn’t a universal thing.

I didn’t see what state the plaintiff was from, but I was thinking he might have been waayyyy better off to take his dispute to the Labor Board. Here in CA, the Labor Board doesn’t tolerate shenanigans from anyone, and has the ability to extract monetary punishment from the cheating employer and give it to the cheated employee.

He didn’t need to do that because his employer paid him the money. The guy was suing for lost wages because he was fired. I don’t recall the employer saying he fired him because of that anyway.

The employer said that he fired him because the employee told him it was illegal to dock his pay and threatened to report him if he didn’t pay it back.

That makes sense. In that case it would have been nice to tell him he could take it up with NLRB, but I can see that it wouldn’t necessarily be expected. (And I suppose it’s possible he was told that, but it wasn’t included in the episode.)

I don’t know how whistleblower protection comes into this… Doesn’t that only apply to federal employees who report a violation of the law to the proper authorities? Like for example snowden isn’t a whistle blower because he talked to the press rather than the AG or a member of congress. In this case I presume that the limo company wasn’t somehow a federal entity.