In the case of Buscetto v. St. Bernard School of Montville, Inc., an athletic director sued a private school for wrongful termination. For the athletic director to succeed in a wrongful discharge claim, he must show the court that his termination violated an explicit statutory or constitutional provision or public policy. The school moved to strike the athletic director’s claim, arguing that the claim was legally insufficient.
In 2007, the athletic director started working for the school and was hired as a baseball coach later that year. The athletic director claims that he was involved in many efforts to improve the condition of the school’s athletic faculties and fields. One such effort involved raising over $25,000 in charitable contributions, which were intended to be exclusively used for the school fields.
The school denied requests for the entirety of the proceeds to be spent on athletics alone, and opted to use some of the proceeds to buy more school buses. The athletic director advised the headmaster that he will not organize another charity event, because he did not want to make another misrepresentation to the public. The athletic director made numerous additional complaints and grievances to the school. He was subsequently terminated as an at-will employee.
The Court’s Decision
The court found that the athletic director failed to allege that his speech did not substantially or materially interfere with his job performance or working relationship. The court determined that no public policy had been violated. “The plaintiff relies on an overly broad interpretation of the public policies behind the previously discussed statutes” said the court. “ Such a broad interpretation of public policy is not consistent with the narrow exception to the at-will employment [policy.] More specifically, the [athletic director] has not successfully alleged that [the school] had a legal duty to act in a given manner and failed to do so, or that the [athletic director] was terminated for fulfilling a legal responsibility.”
This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.