The California Supreme Court ruled that a national news network employer’s termination of an employee could amount to protected activity under anti-SLAPP laws, even if ultimately those activity are deemed unlawful. At the very least, it’s going to mean careful evaluation of employment lawsuits against news organizations in California.
Plaintiff, who is black, alleged that as an employee, he suffered racial discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. The network argued the claim violates anti-SLAPP laws intended to shield businesses from frivolous lawsuits intended to chill speech or some other protected activity of public importance.
Analysts famed the case by considering whether a media company’s free speech right to decide who produces content that’s distributed to an audience of millions supersedes the employee’s right to a discrimination-free workplace. Based on the line of questioning, our Los Angeles employment discrimination attorneys surmise the court had no intention of effectively giving media organizations carte blanche reign to discriminate against their employees simply by citing the First Amendment and anti-SLAPP laws. But while that aspect of the case was remanded back to the lower court, that’s still no guarantee the worker will, especially given allegations of plagiarism, which for that industry, is often considered a fire-able offense.
Attorneys for the major network argued that editorial decisions included things like who to hire and which assignments should be given to whom. All of this, they said, is connected to furthering the mission of public speech, and thus the decision to fire the plaintiff producer should protected under anti-SLAPP laws.