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What is Temporal Proximity and How Can It Be Used to Help Prove Wrongful Termination

Connecticut employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise complaints or who otherwise exercise their workplace rights. An employee who was fired in retaliation has been wrongfully terminated and can pursue a legal claim against their company/organization.

Of course, employers typically do not admit that they are breaking the law. This raises an important question: How can you prove wrongful termination if your supervisor is lying about their motives? One important form of evidence is temporal proximity. Here, our Hartford wrongful termination attorneys explain how temporal proximity can help you prove retaliation. 

Temporal Proximity: What You Need to Know

Temporal proximity is simply a legal term that is used to describe events that occurred relatively close to each other. Why it is so important in wrongful termination claim is because employers rarely admit to illegal conduct. Quite the contrary, companies often try to disguise retaliatory motives with pretextual reasoning. 

As such, the law states that temporal proximity allows for an inference of causation. It is not proof of causation—but, if a Connecticut employee was fired soon after raising a complaint or exercising their rights, it suggests that there is some type of connection between the events. In its guide on retaliation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides the following example to help explain the concept of temporal proximity: 

  • A woman was employed at a store for more than ten years. In her time with the company, she consistently received positive performance reviews. The employer then learns that she provided a witness statement to the EEOC in support of a co-worker’s harassment claim. Approximately one month later, she swaps shifts with another employee without telling management. She is then fired for this “misconduct.”

The EEOC highlights the close connection in time between her protected activity (supporting a harassment claim) and the adverse action taken by the employer (firing). This is an example of temporal proximity because it can be used to provide an inference that the two events are causally related. The employer’s supposed basis for termination—swapping shifts without approval—may not be the real reasoning. 

Not Necessarily Proof of Wrongful Termination, Gather Additional Evidence

As a general rule, temporary proximity is not, by itself, sufficient to prove retaliation. Employees bringing a wrongful termination claim in Connecticut will often need additional supporting evidence in order to bring a successful claim. 

Referring back to the example mentioned above, imagine that an investigation reveals that swapping of shifts without telling supervisors is a very common practice at this particular company. That fact would be a very important piece of evidence, as it would provide support that the employee who terminated was treated unusually harshly by her employer. 

If you were terminated relatively soon after raising a complaint or exercising your legal rights, you should call a Hartford wrongful termination right away. You may have been retaliated against. A comprehensive investigation is required.  

Contact Our Hartford, CT Wrongful Termination Lawyers Today

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Connecticut wrongful termination attorneys are experienced, aggressive advocates for employee rights. If you were unlawfully fired, we are here to help. To arrange a confidential, no commitment employment law consultation, please contact our law firm today. With offices in Hartford and New Haven, we represent clients throughout Connecticut. Call (860) 522-8888.