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What is a SLAPP lawsuit?

As of January 2019, only 28 states had anti-SLAPP laws. The state of California maintains one of those statutes. SLAPP is an acronym that stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation." A SLAPP lawsuit is one in which the chief complaint involves the Defendant exercising his or her rights of free speech. California's anti-SLAPP statute allows a special motion to be filed by a Defendant asking that a Judge strike a complaint. It was first enacted in 1992.

There are numerous situations in which a SLAPP lawsuit may be filed. However, for the purposes of this blog, we are going to identify one in which wrongful termination was alleged, and a SLAPP was filed in in response. The case was based in L.A. Superior Court, and is currently in a California appeals court for review. The Plaintiff was the employee of a Los Angeles based news site. A major investor to the startup, who also happens to be a news talk show host, referred to himself with a derogatory remark used against people of African-American descent on one of his episodes. Subsequently, the employee of the news site arranged for she and her African-American co-workers to request a company meeting to discuss the racial slur. Following this request, she was subject to an onslaught of adverse reactions which ultimately ended in her termination. She in turn filed a lawsuit against the employer claimant discrimination and retaliation for her exercising free speech regarding the incident.

The Defendant employer claims that the Plaintiff's firing had nothing to do with her addressing race issues in the workplace, but was instead a business strategy. The Plaintiff has filed an anti-SLAPP motion claiming that she was exercising First Amendment activity and the employer had no legitimate, non-retaliatory reason to fire her. The Judge in L.A. Superior Court did agree that the case arose from First Amendment activity, and was therefore protected by the anti-SLAPP law. The case is now in the appeals stage, though it is believed the Plaintiff will be successful in her motion.

If you believe your right to free speech is being challenged by a frivolous lawsuit consult with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your legal options. Protect your First Amendment rights.

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