CLEAVEN A. JOHNSON, JR. v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF NEW HAVEN et al., SC 18893
Judicial District of New Haven
Employment; Wrongful Termination; Whether Recall Provision in Employment Contract Properly Excluded as Irrelevant. The plaintiff was laid off from his employment as an in-school drug education prevention worker when the federal grant under which he was working expired. He brought this wrongful termination action claiming that, in violation of his first amendment rights, he was laid off as a result of statements he had made concerning the promotion and salary increase of another employee. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants and the plaintiff appealed, claiming, among other things, that the trial court improperly excluded from evidence as irrelevant a "recall provision" in the agreement between the city and the professional management union of which he was a member. He had sought to show that the refusal to recall him to fill a vacant drug education prevention worker position in accordance with the recall provision demonstrated that he was laid off because of his comments about the other employee rather than for the pretextual reason offered by the defendants. The Appellate Court (130 Conn. App. 91) disagreed with the plaintiff's evidentiary claim and affirmed the judgment. The court noted that, because the recall provision did not guarantee the right to be recalled every time a position became available, the defendants did not violate the agreement by failing to recall the plaintiff to fill the vacant position. The court concluded that the recall provision was therefore irrelevant to the plaintiff's first amendment claim because it did not tend to make it more or less likely that the plaintiff was laid off because of his comments about the other worker's raise in salary. The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly upheld the trial court's exclusion of the recall provision in the plaintiff's employment contract as irrelevant.