No Pretext Where Employer Had “Honest Belief” in Employee’s Misconduct



An employer is entitled to take action based on its honest belief that an employee has engaged in misconduct, reiterated the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

In Robinson v. Town of Marshfield, a fire chief retired following an investigation in which it was concluded that he had violated conflict-of-interest laws. The fire chief argued that the town’s concerns about his conflicts of interest were a pretext for age discrimination, because there was evidence that he had complied with the laws. The First Circuit, however, held that the issue was not whether a jury could have found that he complied with the laws, but whether the employer honestly believed that he had violated those laws. Thus, this case offers employer’s reassurance that taking adverse actions based on an honest belief that the employee engaged in misconduct, as demonstrated by reasonable actions to verify such misconduct, will not violate anti-discrimination laws.