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Teacher Fired for “Inappropriate” Comments Files Retaliation Lawsuit

Workplace discrimination is illegal in New York, and employees do not need to sit idly by if they witness New York employment discrimination. Indeed, the same laws that prohibit discrimination also prevent retaliatory actions taken against an employee who speaks up in the wake of discriminatory conduct.

While an employer cannot take an adverse employment action against an employee who has engaged in whistleblowing or other protected conduct, an employer is not prevented from firing an employee based on an independent reason. Of course, if there is both a potential permissible as well as an impermissible reason for an adverse employment action, it is up to the employee to establish that the employer’s proffered reason is pretextual.

A recent employment discrimination case in front of a federal court of appeals illustrates this concept.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an outspoken political advocate who was also a school teacher. One of the plaintiff’s political adversaries spoke to the superintendent at the school where the plaintiff works, telling the superintendent that he wanted the plaintiff fired. When the political adversary toured the school during a campaign, he would not enter the plaintiff’s classroom and told the superintendent “that’s the one I was telling you about.”

During this time, the plaintiff made a comment during class to the effect of “There is a study out there that says that men think about sex every six seconds, unless you happen to be sitting next to your girlfriend, and it might be more like four seconds.” One student in the class believed that the comment was directed at her and her boyfriend, and she reported the plaintiff’s comment to the school administration.

After a series of hearings, the plaintiff was terminated but was later reinstated at a different position. The plaintiff later filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against several parties involved in the school administration, claiming that he was fired for his protected speech against his political adversary.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s claims. The court explained that the plaintiff has the burden of proving that his termination was a result of a constitutional violation. In regard to municipal defendants, this must be due to a “policy or custom” of the municipality. The court held that the plaintiff failed to make this showing.

Regarding the individual defendants, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence showing that the reason for his termination was due to his protected political speech, rather than the inappropriate comment he made during class. Since this was a potentially legitimate reason for his termination, and the plaintiff failed to show that this asserted reason was pretextual, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

Have You Been a Victim of Discrimination?

If you have recently suffered some adverse employment action, and you believe it to be due to illegal workplace discrimination, you should consult with a dedicated New York employment discrimination attorney. The experienced employment law attorneys at the Law Offices of Ira S. Newman have extensive experience handling a wide range of New York discrimination lawsuits, including retaliation claims. Call 800-206-7375 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney at the Law Offices of Ira S. Newman today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Federal Court Determines Veteran Was Entitled to Higher Signing Bonus from Employer Upon Return from Service, New York Business Litigation Attorney Blog, November 13, 2017.

Housing Discrimination Is Illegal in New York City, New York Business Litigation Attorney Blog, November 27, 2017.