McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech., Inc., 2013 Cal. App. LEXIS 48 (Jan. 24, 2013)

John McGrory sued his former employer, alleging he was unlawfully retaliated against for being uncooperative and deceptive during a company investigation into allegations that he had discriminated against a subordinate employee on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation.  The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer after concluding: (i) there was no evidence warranting a reasonable inference that McGrory was actually terminated for being male; (ii) that being uncooperative or deceptive during an employer’s internal investigation is not a protected activity under state or federal law; and (iii) the employer’s statements to its employees about McGrory’s termination were conditionally privileged.  In analyzing whether an employee’s uncooperative and deceptive behavior was a protected activity for which he could not be terminated, the court looked to federal law for guidance.  The court reasoned that although employees that participate in a proceeding such as those conducted by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing cannot be terminated based on the employee’s participation, lying during a company’s internal investigation is not protected activity under the FEHA; thus, such conduct on McGrory’s part was a legitimate reason to terminate his employment.