Busca Law Firm Wins Summary Judgment

On September 25, 2013, in a case litigated by the Busca Law Firm, federal court Judge Michael P. Shea ruled from the bench at the end of oral argument that there were significant issues for a jury to decide involving municipal whistleblower allegations and retaliation under Title VII for the protected activity of filing a complaint before the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities. Barbara R. Crouch v. Town of Lebanon, Case No. 3:11-cv- 01999 (MPS).

This ruling was based upon the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. It is important to understand what a motion for summary judgment concerns and how it can affect the viability of maintaining a lawsuit in either state or federal court.

After the discovery phase of the litigation of an employment case in court, defendant employers file such a motion basically asking the court to dismiss the case. This motion comes approximately two years after the complaint is filed. The standard for granting summary judgment, i.e., dismissing the case or some claims of the complaint, is that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The court reviews each party’s evidence to determine whether there are issues of fact that could determine the claims or defenses such that a jury, not the court, should decide. The latest statistics reveal that plaintiffs defeat such summary judgment motions in only 15% of the cases. The reasons for such low wins could be the subject of another column.

In Crouch v. Lebanon, the plaintiff was hired as the Town of Lebanon’s first full-time Finance Director. Her job duties included directing all accounting, financial planning, budget preparation and providing support financial services to the Lebanon Board of Education, (“Board”).

The complaint alleges that as a result of an inordinate amount of snowfall in January, 2011, the Board incurred unanticipated snow removal bill of $300,000, which would put the Board in excess of its budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Crouch informed the Town and the Board that, according to state statute, a special town meeting was required to approve funding for any municipal budget overexpenditure which exceeded $20,000.00.

The Town refused to hold the special town meeting prior to the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2011, and continued to allow the Board to make expenditures in excess of its budget. Crouch also alleges that she was required to provide other financial information in a way to hide the amount of the Board’s overexpenditures.

Crouch was terminated after five months’ employment for alleged performance issues. However, she was never counseled or disciplined for such alleged performance deficiencies. Further, an accounting firm hired by the Town before her hire confirmed the coordination and cooperation problems she claimed she was having with the Board. Also, a letter from the Town’s attorney confirmed Crouch’s statement about the statutory special town meeting requirement.

Therefore, Crouch will have her day in court and a jury of her peers will review the evidence to decide if there were violations of federal and state law.

If you believe you have suffered retaliation as a result of reporting unethical practices, mismanagement or abuse of authority, i.e., whistleblower claims, consult with a knowledgeable employment attorney as soon as possible.

I am...

Select the appropriate icon above for more information.

The Top 5 Things You Should Know
As An Employee
Enter your Name and Email to receive
"The Top 5 Things You Should Know As An Employee"
The Top 5 Things You Should Know
As An Employer
Enter your Name and Email to receive
"The Top 5 Things You Should Know As An Employer"
The Top 5 Things You Should Know
As A Union
Enter your Name and Email to receive
"The Top 5 things You Should Know As A Union"