Zavala v. Panoche Water District

In August 2019, Joseph Urbanic and Richard Jacobson won a unanimous verdict in this whistleblower case.

Robert Zavala sued Panoche Water District for whistleblower retaliation pursuant to Cal. Lab. Sec. 1102.5 and defamation. The plaintiff was terminated from his employment as an Assistant Water Master in August 2017. Defendant Panoche Water District informed him that he was terminated for harassing other employees. Three employees testified on behalf of the District regarding the plaintiff’s conduct prior to his termination. The plaintiff alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for being a whistleblower due to his participation in FBI/grand jury and state investigations into the illegal activities of the District under its former General Manager, including a meeting with a state investigator two days before his termination. He also asserted a cause of action for coerced defamation alleging he had to inform prospective employers he had been terminated for harassing employees.  The demand was $1,000,000.  The final offer was $50,000.