Established 1958 ~ Hardball Business Litigation & Complex Negotiations

Employee Loses Prima Facie Case of Retaliation But May Continue His Defamation Case Against Former Employer

On March 20, 2018, Plaintiff Haabiyl Mims filed a Complaint alleging retaliatory discharge under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA § 15 (a)(3)), Defamation and Defamation Per Se, and Wrongful Termination by Defendants New Age Protection Inc. and Tamisha Thorogood Haabiyl Mims v. New Age Protection, Inc., Civ. Action No. 18-CV-1185, 2018 WL 5829340 (E.D. Pa. 2018). After 5 years working at his former employer, Defendant New Age Protection, Inc., a security corporation, Mims was terminated in March 2017. The given reason was that it appeared as if Mims falsified his timesheet to get paid for time he did not work. This termination was made 8 months after Mims received thousands of dollars in back taxes when New Age was investigated by the Department of Labor. Mims then brought suit, alleging retaliation by his former company.

The Court reviewed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to see if Mim’s termination was lawful. In Pennsylvania, courts looks at three necessary elements to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the FLSA, “(1) the plaintiff engaged in protected activity, (2) the employer took an adverse employment action against him, and (3) there was a causal link between the plaintiff’s protected action and the employer’s adverse action.” Scholly v. JMK Plastering, Inc., No. 07–4998, 2008 WL 2579729, at *3 (E.D. Pa. June 25, 2008) (citing Preobrazhenskaya v. Mercy Hall Infirmary, 2003 WL 21877711 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted)). Mims insisted that his former manager and employer knew of his participation in the DOL investigation and fired him because of it. The Court looked at the Mims’ Complaint and saw that he had no proof that his company or manager knew he took part in the investigation. The Court pointed out that even if his employer knew the eight month gap is too far between to establish a clear connection timewise. The Court also focused on the two promotions that Mims received during his time at the company so they concluded there was no animosity at all. Thus, the Court found that Mims termination did not violate the FLSA.

The Court then moved onto Mims’ allegation of defamation. In Pennsylvania, a A plaintiff must establish: (1) The defamatory character of the communication. (2) Its publication by the defendant. (3) Its application to the plaintiff. (4) The understanding by the recipient of its defamatory meaning. (5) The understanding by the recipient of it as intended to be applied to the plaintiff. A statement is defamatory “if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from association or dealing with him.”

The Court looked at one of the emails that seemed to impute that Mims engaged in criminal and/or improper conduct punishable by either imprisonment or judicial sanction to all employees of the company. The company tried to defend itself by asserting that the email was sent out to only certain privileged people at the company who needed to know that Mims was terminated and why. The Court ruled that the issue was too contentious to decide without further evidence and allowed Mims to amend his Complaint regarding the defamation claim.

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