Filing a False Sexual Harassment Claim is Not Protected Activity under FEHA

If you get mad at a supervisor and are looking at possible discipline, it might seem like a good idea to concoct a bogus sexual harassment claim in order to draw attention away from the impending discipline.

But what happens if the investigation initiated to investigate your complaint finds the complaint is not valid?

And then what happens if your target turns around and files a complaint against you for filing a fraudulent complaint?

And the supervisor wins?

Well, it’s likely that you’ll get fired.

Then what do you do?

You run off to court and file a motion for writ of reinstatement and get your job back!

But that’s not good enough. So you go to court again, and sue your employer for retaliation under FEHA alleging that you were fired in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment claim. That, after all, is protected activity under FEHA, and if an employer fires you for engaging in protected activity, well, that’s retaliation!

And that’s what a jury thought. They thought it so much that they award you $2 million!

And then and your attorneys are off to Disneyland.

But wait. Your employer appeals and says to the appellate court, “Hey! Wait a minute! We didn’t fire him because he filed a sexual harassment claim! We fired him because it was a fraudulent claim. We fired him for lying!”

To which the wise Court of Appeals agreed.

Judgment reversed. Disneyland will have to wait.

The lesson here is simple: filing a false sexual harassment claim, and presumably other false claims under FEHA, is not protected activity.

Which makes sense to me.

Joaquin v. City of Los Angeles, 202 Cal.App.4th 1207 (2012).

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