Walsh v. Lebanon Board of Education
Connecticut General Statutes §31-51m can protect a whistleblower, if an employee reports an employer's allegedly unethical practices, mismanagement or abuse of authority to a public entity. The plaintiff alleged the following facts, which had not been proved. In 2011, the plaintiff, a board of education supervisor of custodial services, allegedly contacted contractors for help to remove snow from the roofs of the buildings of schools. Superintendent of Schools Janet Tyler authorized the plaintiff to hire Eagle Rivet, although Eagle did not provide an estimate up front. Eagle worked three days and estimated snow removal costs at a minimum of $160,000. Tyler approved. Eagle continued working and later sought $303,160 for snow removal. Tyler suspended the plaintiff for allegedly mishandling the snow removal. A reporter quoted the plaintiff's remarks at a public meeting about the work he did to hire a snow removal contractor. The board of education voted to outsource the plaintiff's job. The plaintiff sued the board, alleging whistleblower retaliation, tortious interference with contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The board of education filed a motion to dismiss. Allegations that members of the board of education voted to outsource the plaintiff's job in retaliation, because he protested Tyler's claims about snow removal, were sufficient to allege whistleblower retaliation, in violation of C.G.S. §31-51m. The court denied the board's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's C.G.S. §31-51m count. The plaintiff failed to allege that a plausible contract existed that he would only be discharged for cause, and the court granted the board's motion to dismiss his breach-of-contract count and his due-process claim for deprivation of a property interest. The plaintiff's claim that a stigmatizing statement went public near the time he was discharged was sufficient to allege a stigma-plus claim. The plaintiff failed to allege that Tyler acted outside the scope of her authority, and the court dismissed the plaintiff's tortious-interference-with-business-relations count. Allegations that Tyler wrote an inaccurate assessment, exhibited hostility and participated in the decision to outsource the plaintiff's job were insufficient to allege extreme and outrageous conduct. The court granted the board's motion to dismiss the intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress count.