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Tina Royer was a tenured English professor with the the Los Rios Community College District. For the previous thirteen years, she had worked at the Folsom Lake College campus, and during most of the relevant time period, she was the chair of the English department. Josh Fernandez was an English professor at Folsom Lake College. As department chair, Royer was Fernandez’s supervisor.

Royer is Caucasian, Christian, married to a Christian minister, and active in her church, and her Christian background and conservative views are known to her colleagues at Folsom Lake College. Fernandez is Hispanic and is allegedly affiliated with Antifa.

In the fall of 2018, Fernandez was up for tenure, and Royer was one of three members of his tenure review committee. During the tenure review process, all three committee members expressed concerns about Fernandez’s conduct on campus. All three members of the tenure review committee initially determined Fernandez did not meet the guidelines for granting tenure.

Fernandez, however, had threatened to sue the District for attempting to curtail his activities on campus, and purportedly in response to his threat, Dean Snowden ultimately changed his mind about granting tenure. Royer claimed Dean Snowden and Folsom Lake College President Whitney Yamamura successfully pressured her to vote in favor of granting Fernandez tenure.

Although Royer voted in favor of granting tenure, her evaluation included some “less than satisfactory” marks, and Fernandez received a copy of the evaluation. Shortly thereafter, a colleague told Royer that Fernandez was telling other department members he “hated” her “because he received a ‘less than satisfactory’ evaluation” from her.

Around March 2019, Royer complained to the District about Fernandez’s conduct and the effect it was having on her physical and mental health, and she asked that his classroom be moved so it was not next to hers. The District declined to move Fernandez’s classroom, and offered to move her classroom instead, but she did not think she should have to move when she had done nothing wrong. She asked to work remotely in order to avoid interactions with Fernandez on campus. The District agreed

Controversies escalated, and ultimately Royer sued her employer for six separate violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.) (FEHA) and for invasion of privacy.

She claims a coworker subjected her to harassment because of her race and religion, and the District discriminated against her because of her race and religion, retaliated against her for complaining about harassment, failed to prevent harassment, and failed to reasonably accommodate her disability. She also claims that, after she filed a claim pursuant to the Government Claims Act (Gov. Code, § 810 et seq.), the District invaded her privacy by publishing the claim on its Web site without redacting her home address and confidential information about her disability.

The District responded to the lawsuit by filing a special motion to strike pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute). The District’s motion was directed at the entirety of the causes of action for harassment and invasion of privacy, and portions of the causes of action for discrimination, retaliation, and failure to prevent harassment.

The trial court granted the motion as to the discrimination cause of action and denied it as to the other causes of action. The District appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed in part and affirmed in part, and remanded the case in the unpublished case of Royer v. Los Rios Community College District -C096484 (March 2024).

The District challenges the trial court’s finding that the invasion of privacy claim does not arise out of protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statutes.However when the board met to consider and act on Royer’s claim submitted pursuant to the Government Claims Act, that meeting was an official proceeding authorized by law within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute.

Royer argues she “is not suing [the District] for publishing her tort claim,” but instead is suing “because [it] published her tort claim in full without redacting her confidential information.” The trial court appears to have agreed, because it found, “the gravamen of [Royer’s] claim is not the publication of the Tort Claim itself, but the inclusion of her private medical and identifying information unnecessarily.” However the trial court thus should have proceeded to the second step and determined whether Royer met her burden of establishing a probability of prevailing.

The order denying the anti-SLAPP motion was reversed as to Royer’s first cause of action for harassment because she did not establish a probability of prevailing on that cause of action. The order denying the anti-SLAPP motion as to Royer’s seventh cause of action for invasion of privacy is also reversed because the trial court erred in finding it did not arise out of protected activity, and we remand this case to the trial court to determine whether Royer established a probability of prevailing on the invasion of privacy cause of action.