Bel Air Internet, LLC v. Morales, 2018 WL 1045222 (Cal. Ct. App. 2018)

Bel Air Internet sued two of its former employees, Albert Morales and Flavio Delabra, for encouraging their fellow employees to quit and sue the company for alleged employment violations rather than sign a release of claims as Bel Air had requested. Bel Air sued Morales and Delabra for intentional interference with contractual relations; breach of contract; breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and conversion (Morales only). In response to Bel Air’s complaint, Morales and Delabra filed a motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16) on the ground that by allegedly encouraging other employees to quit and sue Bel Air, they had engaged in protected conduct under the statute. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and held that Morales and Delabra could rely upon Bel Air’s allegations that they had engaged in what amounted to protected conduct – even though they had filed declarations denying such conduct. The Court further held that Bel Air had failed to show a probability that it would prevail on its claims because “the litigation privilege applies to [Morales and Delabra’s] litigation-related activity” even though they were encouraging other employees to sue Bel Air. Finally, the Court ordered Bel Air to pay Morales and Delabra the attorney’s fees and costs they had incurred in bringing the motion and prosecuting the appeal.