McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) does not provide employment protection to employees that lie or withhold relevant information during an employer’s investigation of discriminatory conduct.

In this case, an employee allegedly discriminated against a co-worker on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, where the Defendant through the use of outside counsel, conducted an investigation involving such allegations. During the course of this investigation, the employee refused to answer and withheld certain relevant information, and additionally, was determined to be untruthful and uncooperative. As a result, the employer eventually terminated such employee, citing the employee’s failure to provide truthful and cooperative information in such investigation, on the basis that such violated employer’s employment policies on sexual harassment, ethics, and good business practices.

In response, the terminated employee filed suit against the employer, alleging in pertinent part that the workplace discrimination investigation is a “proceeding” and protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), and additionally asserted that such termination was discriminatory and based on the employee’s gender. In other words, the employee attempted to argue that since such matter constituted a proceeding, he was under no obligation to comply or could be compelled to answer, rather that it was unlawful for the employer to coerce him to cooperate, and when he failed to cooperate, that it was similarly unlawful for the employer to terminate him on that basis.

The Appeals Court

The California Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that the Fair Employment and Housing Act, did not provide employee protection for termination as a result of lying or withholding relevant information during an employer’s investigation involving discriminatory conduct, but rather, public policy actually weighs in favor of not protecting deceptive activity in an employer’s internal investigation of discriminatory conduct.

The Court additionally set forth that public policy dictates that employers have the unfettered ability to investigate and conduct various internal investigations regarding employment based claims, including that of discrimination and sexual harassment based claims, and to the extent that employees seek to impede such investigation by way of providing false or misleading information, being untruthful, or uncooperative, then employers should have the full and complete discretion to discharge and otherwise terminate them. Here, the Court found that such employee was intentionally acting as an impediment to the process, and therefore, was acting in a way that was inconsistent with the employer’s policies against employment discrimination, ethics and good business practices.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment discrimination claims and wrongful discharge. If you have any employment-related dispute and are considering suing your employer for wrongful or retaliatory conduct contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.