Lynch v. Ackley
Denial of reimbursement for foregoing health insurance may be equivalent to a reduction in pay and qualify as an adverse employment action, for purposes of First Amendment retaliation claims and Connecticut General Statutes §31-51q. A month after the plaintiff police officer, who became active in the union, requested that the union file a grievance against the defendant chief of police, the chief of police allegedly denied the plaintiff reimbursement for foregoing the city's health insurance. The plaintiff suggested that the union pass a "no confidence" vote against the chief, and the chief allegedly denied his request to attend a K-9 conference and eliminated his squad shift. The union endorsed Michael Buscetto, with whom the chief had serious disagreements, for mayor. Allegedly, the chief suggested that a reporter research citizen complaints against the plaintiff. After The New London Day published the plaintiff's letter to the editor, in which he claimed the chief was ineffective, the chief allegedly scheduled hearings so the plaintiff would be required to use vacation time for union business. The plaintiff requested an investigation into whether the chief wrongly investigated an individual's immigration status. The chief allegedly suggested K-9s were used for racial profiling. The plaintiff sued, alleging retaliation for protected speech. The court found that the plaintiff adequately alleged that he engaged in protected speech when he requested that the union file a grievance against the chief, suggested that the union pass a "no confidence" vote, wrote a letter to the editor, and requested an investigation into whether the chief wrongly investigated an individual's immigration status. The union's endorsement of Buscetto also constituted protected speech. The plaintiff's complaint adequately alleged that he suffered adverse employment action, because he was denied reimbursement for foregoing the city's health insurance approximately one month after he requested that the union file a grievance against the chief. The plaintiff also adequately alleged First Amendment freedom of association retaliation for his union and political activities and a prima facie C.G.S. §31-51q allegation. The plaintiff, a public figure, also alleged malice and the elements of libel. The court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss.