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The Pants Lawsuit: Still Not Over

By Brian Kumnick | Last updated on
From the where-are-they now file: infamous dry-cleaning litigant Roy Pearson is apparently still at it, fighting for his "cause." Next up, according to Legal Times: a trip to a federal appeals court to see if he can get his wrongful-termination lawsuit reinstated.

To be sure, the original pants lawsuit that Pearson initiated in 2005 is technically over. Neither D.C.'s trial court nor its court of appeals agreed with Pearson's claims that his dry cleaner should be hit with a $54 million judgment for losing a pair of Pearson's pants. Pearson had argued that under D.C. law, the dry cleaner was subject to large daily fines for failing to adhere to a "Same Day Service" sign posted at the business.

Yet despite the international uproar surrounding that case, Pearson is back, this time making employment claims in federal court.
In May 2008, Roy Pearson sued the District of Columbia for wrongful termination after the district declined to reappoint him to his prior position as an administrative law judge. The federal suit claimed that he had been wrongfully terminated as retaliation for his pants lawsuit.

But the federal court was not buying it. Retaliation claims are only viable where an employee has been disciplined or fired for so-called "protected speech." To succeed in his case, Pearson would have to show that his speech (the pants lawsuit) involved a matter of public concern. The fact that he sued in part to compel enforcement of D.C.'s consumer-protection laws (going so far as to characterize himself as a "private attorney general" for doing so) did not impress the judge.

So without any "public concern," there was no protected speech, and no retaliation claim could be brought. Never one to back down, Pearson will press on and appeal that decision. We will not be holding our breath to see how that one turns out.

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