Judge Gabriel Sanchez, nominated by President Biden to the Ninth Circuit, reversed a lower court that had accepted a corporation’s arguments that would have significantly limited whistleblower protections for workers under California law. Aaron Killgore, who worked for SpecPro Professional Services LLC, blew the whistle when he was directed to violate federal law in preparing an environmental assessment for a US Army Reserve Command project and was then fired. The lower court accepted SpecPro’s claim, however, that the law did not protect Killgore’s disclosures of apparent illegal conduct to his supervisor or a Reserve project officer. Sanchez wrote a unanimous opinion that reversed the lower court and gave Killgore the opportunity to prove his case. Sanchez explained that the district court had given an improper “constricted reading” of the whistleblower law as well as federal environmental law. Correcting these errors was crucial, Sanchez went on, to help fulfill the law’s purpose to “encourage workplace whistleblowers to report unlawful acts without fear of retaliation.”
The October 2022 decision was in Killgore v. SpecPro Professional Services LLC. It provides yet another illustration of the importance of electing a Senate this November that will continue promptly to confirm judges like Sanchez who will seek to protect employee and environmental rights.