In the case of McGrory v. Applied Signal Technology, Inc., No. H036597 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2013) related to the wrongful dismissal and termination of a manger and gender bias claims, the United States California Court Of Appeal held that “an at will employee may be terminated for being uncooperative or deceptive in an employer’s internal investigation of a discrimination claim” (United States, 2013). The court also rejected the claims brought forth on grounds of defamation after concluding that the statements by the employer in relation to the basis for termination of the employee were conditionally privileged.
The employee in question, John McGrory, was the department manager at Applied Signal Technology from the year 2005 to 2009with a significant number of employees reporting to the party such as Dana Thomas. At the end of the year 2008, Dana Thomas was provided with an oral warning and a documented Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) in relation to poor work performance in the year 2009. Dana Thomas declined to provide her signature on the Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) and opted to file for a complain against the manager John McGrory on the basis that he had discriminated against her on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. The entity hired a female investigator to provide information into the allegations leveled against McGory (United States, 2013).
The results of investigation found that Thomas had performance issues whereas McGory was uncooperative during the investigation in terms of providing information on the processes and procedures used to rank employees. This was also marked by significant complaints against Thomas performance. McGory was terminated for failure to comply with the investigation, which was duly communicated to him by the supervisors. McGory sued Applied Signal on the basis of defamation, gender bias, and violation of public policy in relation to his claims of wrongful termination. The existing laws in California such as the “At-will” doctrine provide an employer with the authority to terminate an employee for reasons other than those, which violate critical public policies that are recognized by statutory provisions and the constitution (United States, 2013). The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) in California prohibits any form of employment discrimination based on sex (United States, 2013).
The role of performance management as provided in this case was to enhance the group, individual, and enterprise’s alignment of its goals and objectives through measurement, and performance information sharing across all levels of management in the organization (Noe et al., 2011). The plaintiff argued that public policy in California provides individuals who participate in internal investigations from any form of retaliation, reprisal, or discrimination irrespective of participant’s level of cooperation (United States, 2013). This was a challenge for the courts given that the state laws of California did not provide for such issues. However, the courts used the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 whereby the Federal courts held that immunity for individual participation was only relative to “sincere participation”( United States, 2013). This means that the employer was acting within the legal limits in dismissing the plaintiff for failure to comply and truthful participation in the investigations, which gave rise to attempts of deceiving the investigator.
This is indicative that failure of a participant to cooperate in an investigation for discrimination claims is an activity that is not protected within the law. This is indicative that the courts do not protect any form of deceptive activity or failure to provide information during internal investigations in organizations in relation to performance appraisal of employees. The courts noted that such conduct, as illustrated by McGory, were sufficient to terminate the “At-will” employee (United States, 2013). The courts also noted that the defamation claims were rejected given that linking McGory to Dana Thomas was an activity that was protected under the common interest privilege in California laws (Noe et al., 2011). The entity was acting legally in disciplining its employee for failure to comply with the common interests of conducting the investigation.
Noe, R. A., Hollenbeck, J. R., Gerhart, B., & Wright, P. M. (2011). Fundamentals of human resource management (4th ed.). Chicago, IL: McGraw-Hill.
United States. (2013). McGrory v. Applied Signal Technology, Inc., No. H036597 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2013)
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