Employment Law | Interesting wrongful termination decision

This ANALYSIS by law firm Berger Kahn:

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 10.40.18 AMMany employees believe that unfair or bad termination decisions justify lawsuits.  This case reminds us that when employment is at-will, only terminations that violate public policy will typically sustain a lawsuit.

Employee’s Termination Was Not Wrongful

McGrory v. Applied Signal Technology, Inc.
(Cal. Ct. of App., 6th Dist.), filed January 24, 2013 


John McGrory worked for Applied Signal Technology, Inc.  He was hired as a section manager and promoted to department manager, reporting directly to the chief financial officer.  A dozen employees reported directly to McGrory.

McGrory gave one of the employees who reported to him, Dana Thomas, a written warning over poor work performance.  Thomas responded to the warning by filing a complaint accusing McGrory of discriminating against her based on her gender and sexual orientation.  She did not complain of sexual harassment.

Applied Signal Technologies engaged an outside attorney to investigate the complaint.  She concluded that McGrory had not discriminated against Thomas on the basis of her gender or sexual orientation.  However, she also concluded that in other ways McGrory had violated Applied Signal Technology’s policies on sexual harassment and business and personal ethics and he had been uncooperative and deceptive during the investigation.  Based on this latter finding, Applied Signal Technologies fired McGrory.

McGrory sued for wrongful termination and defamation.

Applied Signal Technology filed a motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication.  It asserted there was no evidence that it terminated McGrory for an impermissible reason and that it could not be liable in defamation for privileged statements of opinion on a topic of mutual interest.  The trial court granted summary judgment.


The Court of Appeal affirmed.

As an at-will employee, McGrory could be terminated by Applied Signal Technology, except for a reason that violates a fundamental public policy recognized in a constitutional or statutory provision.  One of these is on the basis of sex.

There was no evidence that McGrory was fired because of his sex.

Being uncooperative or deceptive in an employer’s internal investigation is not a protected activity under state or federal law.  Therefore, Applied Signal Technology was within its rights and the law to fire McGrory for being uncooperative in connection with its investigation of Thomas’ complaint.

Source: http://bergerkahn.com/decisions/february-2013-employees-termination-was-not-wrongful/


One comment on “Employment Law | Interesting wrongful termination decision

  1. sampetersan says:

    Employers are prohibited by law to take action against employees in this fashion, but this practice is commonplace and many are afraid to speak out and assert their rights. Choosing right wrongful termination attorneys is not always easy. It is important to work with a lawyer who will dedicate the necessary time and resources to give each client the personalized attention they deserve. Unlawful Termination Attorneys specialize in employment discrimination cases, having attorneys with vast experience in filing lawsuits against employers who violate workplace rules. No matter what the case is, these lawyers will be able to assist you in getting the compensation you need from your employer.

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