Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 20, 2023
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 20, 2023//
Where a former assistant superintendent alleged the Prince William County School Board retaliated against him after he complained about an employee’s conduct, but he suffered no adverse employment action and there was no causal connection between the alleged retaliation and the protected activity, his claim was dismissed with prejudice.
Michael Mulgrew’s amended complaint brings two causes of action — retaliation under Title VII and a breach of his employment contract — against the Prince William County School Board. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss.
To sustain a claim for retaliation in violation of Title VII, Plaintiff must plead facts from which the court can plausibly infer that (1) he engaged in a protected activity; (2) his employer then took an adverse employment action against him and (3) the adverse action was causally connected to the protected
Plaintiff fails to allege the school board took an adverse employment action against him. An adverse action must “adversely affect the terms, conditions, or benefits of the plaintiff’s employment.” Although it is unclear precisely what conduct following the 2019 internal complaint forms the basis of any allegation of “defamation” or “harassment,” the court finds that plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege retaliatory harassment. Likewise, the internal investigations into plaintiff after he filed the 2019 internal complaint do not sufficiently allege adverse actions.
Placing plaintiff on paid administrative leave pending investigation into his conduct under these particular circumstances does not constitute an adverse employment action. Finally, where a plaintiff voluntarily resigns, there is no adverse action. To the extent that plaintiff intends to allege a constructive discharge claim, he has failed to plead the elements of such a theory.
Even if plaintiff had alleged a cognizable adverse employment action, the court finds that the retaliation claim must nevertheless be dismissed because plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege a causal link between the 2019 internal complaint and any alleged adverse action. Rather, plaintiff alleges that he was placed on paid administrative leave due to an investigation related to claims involving a teacher who had failed to grade and post student assignments. And the time period of one-and-a-half years is much too tenuous to support any inference of a causal link here.
Breach of contract
Plaintiff states that he was “expected to abide by, and conduct himself in comportment with” the applicable policies and regulations, but that the “contract also afforded Mr. Mulgrew the same protections and benefits set forth in those” policies and regulations.” But the plain terms of the employment contract make clear that refraining from violating the relevant policies and regulations are legal obligations that are imposed upon the employee who has entered into the contract.
Indeed, each of the provisions within the section under which paragraph four is located details the duties and obligations of the employee, and does not contemplate any obligations by the employer. As with Count One, the court finds that further amendment of this substantively meritless claim would be futile, and dismisses Count Two with prejudice.
Defendant’s motion to dismiss granted.
Mulgrew v. Prince William County School Board, Case No. 1:22-cv-1311, Nov. 2, 2023. EDVA at Alexandria (Nachmanoff). VLW 023-3-703. 11 pp.