A former Branford Facilities Manager’s claims that his employment was terminated due to protected speech and his political affiliation were effectively dismissed on Friday, February 25th when a federal court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.
The 40-page opinion provides good roadmap for employers (and their attorneys) to understanding such claims and what is needed to prove them.
Ultimately, in this case, the court found that the Facilities Manager — who was also a a member of the town’s Representative Town Meeting and majority leader at one time — had not shown that the timing of his discharge was enough to support a reasonable jury finding in his favor.
The court stated: "[M]ere temporal proximity — even very close temporal proximity — is not always sufficient to support an inference that the plaintiff’s protected activity was a motivating factor in the defendant’s adverse employment action."
The court then provides an example of a situation where "the employer had already begun taking adverse employment actions against the employee prior to the employee’s engagement in any protected activity."
In this case, the court said that if the employee had presented "some other tangible evidence that his political opposition" led to retaliatory animus, it might be enough to send the case to a jury for consideration. But having failed to do so here, the court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.
The case by Judge Mark Kravitz, Smith v. Da Ros, can be downloaded here.