Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cole v. Anne Arundel County Brd of Education (Maryland U.S.D.C.)(not approved for publication)

Decided November 30, 2006--Opinion by Judge Catherine C. Blake (not approved for publication)

To recover for tortious interference with business relationships, the plaintiff must prove that defendant’s conduct was independently wrongful or unlawful, i.e., that the defendant's conduct in interfering with contract or business relations was accomplished through "improper means.” Independent "improper means," included "violence or intimidation, defamation, injurious falsehood or other fraud, violation of the criminal law, and the institution or threat of groundless civil suits or criminal prosecutions in bad faith."

In a free speech/retaliation claim, a burden rests on the plaintiff to show that the speech involved a matter of "public concern," that the plaintiff was deprived of a valuable benefit, and that but for the protected speech, the government would not have taken the retaliatory action. It is not a matter of "public concern" when a public employee speaks not as a citizen upon matters of public concern, but instead as an employee upon matters only of personal interest, absent the most unusual circumstances.

Transfers and reassignments that do not constitute firings or suspensions typically have not been held to implicate a property interest to which, with respect to government employees, due process rights attach.

To establish a prima facie case of discriminatorily motivated demotion, a plaintiff must prove: 1) that she is a member of a protected class, 2) that she was demoted, 3) that at the time of the demotion she was performing her job at a level that met her employer's legitimate expectations, and 4) "ordinarily," that she was replaced by someone of comparable qualifications who was not a member of the protected class.

A plaintiff's unsubstantiated beliefs that defendant treated her unfairly and that race and national origin formed the basis of her termination are not sufficient to rebut the defendant's proof of a nondiscriminatory reason.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

No comments: