A bank violated New York labor laws when it gave a candidate for the New York state assembly a choice between continuing his campaign or keeping his job, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, overturning a lower court’s ruling.
William Truitt Gunnar, a part-time Dutchess County legislator who worked for Lakeville, Conn.-based Salisbury Bancorp Inc. as a mortgage loan officer intern, announced he is running as a Republican candidate in the upcoming April 2018 election for the New York State Assembly, according to Thursday’s decision of the Second United States Court of Appeals in New York i William Gunnar Truitt v. Salisbury Bank and Trust Co. and Salisbury Bancorp, Inc.
The bank̵7;s policy was that external employment required the prior approval of the board or executive management.
The bank notified Truitt that he had to choose between running for office or continuing to work for the bank. Mr. Truitt made up his mind continue his campaign and his banking employment ended.
Mr. Truitt, who lost the election, filed a lawsuit in US District Court in White Plains, New York, claiming the bank had violated New York labor laws when he issued his ultimatum.
The court granted the bank’s request for a ruling on the basis that his departure was “best classified as a resignation.”
A unanimous three-judge appeals court panel overturned the ruling. A “reasonable jury could find that the bank subjected Truitt to an adverse employment action when it forced an ultimatum” on him because of his political activities, and that it discriminated against him when it required him to abandon his campaign as a condition of remaining employed. and violated New York law.
Mr. Truitt’s campaign did not interfere with his work, and bank executives were not aware of any complaints from his colleagues that he was unable to perform, it said.
The ruling also held that the bank had not submitted admissible evidence that political activities did not play a “substantial” role in its decision to subject him to an adverse employment action, noting that New York law protects employees running for political office from discrimination.
The panel remanded the case for further consideration.
Plaintiff attorney Ted McCullough, of McCullough Ginsberg Montano & Partners LLP in New York, said in a statement: “We are pleased with the outcome. Beyond that, the decision is clear and we will continue to take the case to trial.”
The bank’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.