Under the law and under best business practices, employers should conduct a full, fair investigation if an employee complains of harassment or discrimination. But what can an employer do if an employee refuses to cooperate or lies during an investigation of a harassment complaint?
A recent California Lawyer Magazine article. “The Duty to Cooperate,” discusses a recent California appellate court opinion holding that employees cannot sue for wrongful termination if they are fired for refusing to cooperate in an investigation or for lying during that investigation. In McGrory v. Applied Signal Tech, Inc., a target of an investigation sued after he was fired for being “uncooperative and deceptive” during a company investigation of a harassment and discrimination complaint, even though the third-party investigation cleared him of at least part of the complaint. The appellate court concluded that withholding information and deceptive activity during an investigation are not protected activities, and thus that the at-will employee had no claim for wrongful termination. The appellate court also dismissed his claim of defamation.