James A. Mollet, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Greenfield, Defendant-Appellee.
May 23, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 2:16-cv-01145-LA - Lynn Adelman,
Bauer, Manion, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
case we must decide whether James Mollet's complaint
about a racially charged incident was the but-for cause of
his constructive discharge. For the reasons below, we answer
in the negative and affirm the decision of the district
Mollet began working as a firefighter for the Greenfield Fire
Department in 1995. The Greenfield Fire Department had three
eight-hour shifts each day and one battalion chief supervised
each. Mollet rose through the ranks of the fire department
and became a battalion chief in 2009.
November 2011, John Cohn was appointed chief of the
department and George Weber assistant chief. Mollet and Cohn
were friendly before he was appointed chief, but following
the appointment phone calls and text messages between the two
ceased. The relationship was further strained because Mollet
felt Cohn's actions as chief were inconsistent with the
vision for the department Mollet and Cohn discussed prior to
that we move to the incident that underpins the theory of
Mollet's case. At the end of each shift firefighters stow
their gear and bedding and when one fails to do so, other
firefighters sometimes prank the offender. On February 17,
2012, firefighter Cesar Hernandez forgot to stow some of his
gear. The firefighters in the following shift hung the items
from the ceiling and posted a paper sign with a Mexican flag
printed on it with the words "Border Patrol"
written beneath it. Hernandez did not file a complaint after
the incident, but another firefighter who found the incident
discriminatory reported it to her superior officer, who
reported the incident to Mollet.
emailed Cohn and Weber later that evening and informed them
of the incident. Weber replied:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I agree with
you 100% that this crosses the line of firehouse hazing.
Could you do some investigating into this incident and report
any findings back to me. This type of behavior should not and
will not be tolerated. Please let me know what you find out.
indicated he would rather not investigate the incident
himself, but Cohn emailed that Mollet should investigate
because Cohn did not want to hand the issue over to those
under whose watch it may have occurred.
individual eventually took responsibility for the incident
and four individuals were disciplined - one lost a day of
vacation and three received verbal reprimands.
following months Cohn and Weber were critical of Mollet's
performance. In March 2012, a month after the incident, Cohn
and Weber criticized Mollet's performance in checking off
probationary firefighters on certain tasks. On April 12,
2012, Weber sent an email critical of Mollet's leadership
skills. The following day, Weber informed Mollet that he
would be taking over the lead on rapid intervention team
training. Mollet was later removed from his position