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Queens Library settles wrongful termination suit with former president

We’ve previously noted on this blog that the general rule is that employment is at-will, and that an employer may therefore terminate an employee for any reason, at any time, without fear of legal repercussions. This rule can be modified by contractual promises, as it often is with high-level executives.

Queens Borough Public Library recently reached a settlement with its former president Thomas Galante, who was terminated from his position at the library back in 2014. Galante had served in the position for 20 years, but was terminated based on allegations that he spent library funds on personal expenses. 

Interesting in the case was that the board of trustees for Queens Library initially refused to remove Galante from his position, despite the urging of public officials that he either resign or be removed. This refusal subsequently resulted in the passage of legislation which allowed the mayor and borough president to remove board members.

Mayor de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz ended up removing eight trustees who voted not to suspend Galante and appointing new members to the board, which did ultimately vote to suspend Galante and terminate him from the position. The whole affair occurred over a period of nine or so months.

Galante ended up filing a wrongful termination lawsuit last year over the whole affair, alleging that his termination was politically motivated and was not based on misconduct or poor job performance. The settlement requires the library to pay Galante $1.5 million in legal fees, as well as other damages.

In our next post, we’ll explore this issue a bit more, particularly the importance of executives working with experienced legal counsel when they believe they may have been illegally terminated. 

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