Surreptitiously Tape Recording Supervisors Basis For Termination

As a Court later described, Christina Argyropoulos’ “turbulent tenure as a jailer” for the City of Alton, Illinois Police Department lasted just ten months. Approximately seven weeks before she was fired, Argyropoulos complained that she had been sexually harassed by a fellow jailer. The Department promptly took steps to prevent further unsupervised contact between the two jailers and began an investigation.

Before that investigation ran its course, however, the Department learned that Argyropoulos had surreptitiously tape recorded a closed-door workplace meeting with two of her superiors, triggering her arrest on a felony eavesdropping charge and her near-immediate dismissal. Contending that she was arrested and fired solely because she complained of sexual harassment, Argyropoulos filed suit against the City and several Department employees, alleging Title VII sexual harassment and retaliation.

The federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit. The Court found that even if Argyropoulos had managed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, “her retaliation claim would still face an insurmountable obstacle, because she cannot show that the City’s proper justification for her arrest and termination was a pretext for retaliation. Argyropoulos has failed to cast doubt on the City’s explanation for her arrest and termination. First, her arrest and termination occurred almost seven weeks after she had complained of discrimination, but just two days after the City learned that she had secretly recorded the meeting with her superiors. Common sense suggests that the latter event, rather than the former, triggered her termination. Moreover, Argyropoulos was arrested and fired only after evidence of criminal activity had been recovered from her home and she had admitted lying to police investigators. Again, this evidence lends credence to the City’s explanation for its actions.”

Argyropoulos v. City of Alton, 539 F.3d 724 (7th Cir. 2008).

This article appears in the November 2008 issue