Husman v. Toyota Motor Credit Corp., 2017 WL 2665191 (Cal. Ct. App. 2017)

Joseph Husman alleged sexual orientation discrimination based on the “perception he was too gay” as well as retaliation for alleged criticisms he made concerning Toyota’s commitment to diversity. The trial court granted Toyota’s summary judgment motion, but the Court of Appeal reversed dismissal of the discrimination claim on the ground that Husman had raised a triable issue of fact as to whether his termination was substantially motivated by discriminatory bias (i.e., an alleged dislike for “Husman’s being too gay”). In so holding, the Court rejected the “same actor” defense because, although the same supervisor who was responsible for Husman’s advancement at Toyota (George Borst) also fired him, there was conflicting evidence of “cat’s paw” influence that was allegedly exercised through Borst by another supervisor who “had it out for [Husman].” The Court affirmed dismissal of Husman’s retaliation claims in the absence of evidence of “pointed criticism or opposition [by Toyota] salient to an act reasonably believed to be prohibited by FEHA.” Cf. Park v. Board of Trustees of the Cal. State Univ., 2 Cal. 5th 1057 (2017) (discrimination claim by professor who was denied tenure should not have been dismissed in response to Anti-SLAPP motion – such a claim may be struck only if the speech or petitioning activity itself is the wrong complained of).