Buscetto v. Saint Bernard School of Montville Inc.
Statutes that discuss the state's interest in creating a safe learning environment for minor school children may not create an exception to the at-will employment doctrine, if a school worker is discharged soon after reporting that another worker allegedly appeared to be drunk when he arrived at school. In 2007, the defendants, the Norwich Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. and the Saint Bernard School of Montville Inc., hired the plaintiff, William Buscetto, as an athletics director. In 2011, the school facilities director allegedly appeared to be drunk when he arrived at the school. The plaintiff sent an e-mail that indicated to the headmaster and superintendent that he instructed coaches to secure the football players and to call the police, if the facilities director ever appeared to be drunk in the future when he arrived at the school. The defendants discharged the plaintiff within 27 hours. The plaintiff sued, alleging retaliatory discharge, because he spoke about a matter of public concern. The plaintiff also alleged wrongful discharge, in violation of a public policy against drunk driving in school zones. The defendants moved to strike. The court granted the defendants' motion to strike the plaintiff's allegation that the defendants violated Connecticut General Statutes §31-51q. The plaintiff's complaint failed to allege a required element, which was that his speech did not interfere substantially and materially with bona fide performance or with the plaintiff's working relationship with his employer. The court also granted the defendants' motion to strike the plaintiff's count alleging wrongful discharge, in violation of public policy. The public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine is narrow. The plaintiff cited statutes that discuss the state's interest in creating a safe learning environment. The statutes do not require the plaintiff to report a worker's alleged intoxication. The plaintiff's interpretation of public policy was overly broad and was not consistent with the narrow exception to the at-will employment doctrine.