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Be Sure There is a Causal Connection Between Your Protected Status and Your Termination

Our firm receives call every day from individuals who have been recently fired. They are often a member of a protected class, such as a racial or religious minority, or are gay, pregnant, or are over the age of 40. Just being in such a class, and then being fired, does not mean you will prevail in a discrimination lawsuit. There must be some causal connection between your firing and your protected class.

A recent case decided in our local Second Circuit Court Appeals (Giudice v. Red Robin International Inc., case number 13-1190, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) illustrates this point. Joseph J. Giudice claimed that team members and management at Red Robin's Webster, N.Y., location made inappropriate comments and showed pornographic videos to him after finding out he is gay. Red Robin replied that the plaintiff had been issued multiple warnings for not properly paying employees, yelling at co-workers and disrespecting customers.

According to the Court, Red Robin began disciplining Giudice years before his formal complaint of harassment on June 14, 2010. In 2008,Giudice was issued a final written warning for violating Red Robin's policies concerning the proper payment of employees, in which he was told that his failure to follow the company's policies could result in further discipline, including termination. In June 2010, Red Robin determined through an investigation that Giudice had not properly paid an employee. The Court concluded that "no
reasonable fact finder could conclude that it was Giudice's complaint that resulted in his
termination, as opposed to Red Robin's stated reason for firing him, which was his failure to
properly pay employees after receiving a final warning requiring him to abide by the company's policies concerning the payment of employees."

Thus if you are going to bring an action for employment discrimination, you had better be sure that your firing was the result of the actual act of discrimination, and not due to some other non-related actions on your part that violated your companies policies.

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