Martin v. Board of Trustees of the Cal. State Univ., 2023 WL 7537694 (Cal. Ct. App. 2023)
Following the termination of his employment as director of university communications at CSUN’s Marketing and Communications Department, Jorge Martin sued the university for race, gender and sexual orientation harassment and discrimination because he is a “middle-aged, light-skinned Mexican-American, heterosexual and cisgender male.” The trial court granted the university’s motion for summary judgment after concluding that Martin could not demonstrate he was performing competently or that discriminatory animus could be inferred; further, the university submitted unrebutted evidence that Martin was terminated for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. The Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment based on the results of various investigations that were undertaken by the university prior to the termination of Martin’s employment. The trial and appellate courts rejected Martin’s argument that the university’s reasons for terminating him were pretextual, rejecting Martin’s assertion that the university’s commitment to diversity was evidence of pretext against him or that the “cat’s paw” theory applied (i.e., that a “significant participant” in the termination decision had exhibited discriminatory animus toward Martin).