The Impact of the Anti-SLAPP Statute in California Employment Discrimination Lawsuits

California’s anti-SLAPP statute refers to the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Lawmakers designed the statute to protect those who wish to speak out about public policy issues against more powerful corporate entities. In California, the term primarily refers to lawsuits stemming from discouraging speech about significant issues or public participation in governmental proceedings.

While the statute provides many benefits, it also has significant implications for California employees wishing to pursue employment discrimination or retaliation against their employers. Anti-SLAPP statutes permit defendant employers to present a motion to strike causes of action that stems from “any act of that person in furtherance of the person’s right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution; in connection with a public issue.”

Following a California Supreme Court case, the Court held that the anti-SLAPP statutes do not include an exception for retaliation or discrimination claims. As such, a plaintiff’s allegations against an employer’s motives will not protect the claim from preliminary screening for merit.

Most recently, a California appellate court addressed the anti-SLAPP statute in a plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim. The woman alleged that she was fired after complaining of workplace misconduct, including violations of company policy and mistreatment. The employer terminated her based on various actions, including theft, fraud, and dishonesty. The defendants moved to strike the employee’s claims based on the anti-SLAPP statute. In response, the plaintiff dismissed the causes of actions she believed fell under the anti-SLAPP statute. She argued that the defendant’s motion became moot when she dismissed the relevant claims. However, the employer argued that the remained claims stemmed from their protected activity of reporting the plaintiff’s suspected fraud and theft to the police.

The appeal focused on whether the remaining claims stem from protected activity. In evaluating anti-SLAPP motions, the court engages in a two-step analysis. First, the defendant maintains the burden of showing whether a claim is based on protected activity. If they are successful, the plaintiff must demonstrate a probability of prevailing. In this case, the court concluded that the employer’s conduct was designed to prompt action from law enforcement and is thereby protected. However, the court found that although the plaintiff’s discrimination claims may be weak, they do not involve the employer’s protected activity. As such, the court remanded the case and ordered the plaintiff to file an amended pleading removing allegations relating to the employer’s report to law enforcement, alleging sufficient facts for the remaining employment discrimination claims.

Have You Experienced Retaliation by Your California Employer?

If your employer has engaged in California employment law violations, contact The Nourmand Law Firm. The attorneys at our office have been fighting for employee rights for more than 20 years. The firm handles California employment lawsuits involving class actions, defamation, employment discrimination, wage and hour violations, and wrongful termination. Our highly experienced attorneys have a high rate of success defending workers’ rights. Contact our office at 800-700-9243 to schedule a free consultation with a California employment discrimination attorney on our team.

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