Judge Rules Austin Car Dealership Cannot Claim Free Speech After Outing Fired Trans Employee

Roger Beasley Mitsubishi in Austin. (Photo via Google Maps)

A federal magistrate judge has preliminarily ruled that an Austin car dealership cannot use the right to free speech as a way to dismiss the claims of invasion of privacy made by a fired employee who says management “openly discussed his status as a transgender male” with his fellow workers.

On August 1, Bradley R. Rudkin, the former general sales manager of Roger Beasley Mitsubishi, filed a lawsuit against the Roger Beasley Automotive Group after being fired without notice and without any prior written or verbal warnings.

In his suit, Rudkin maintains he was discharged from the dealership on the basis of his sex; that Beasley failed to honor the terms of his employment agreement, salary and commissions; and that Beasley managers invaded his privacy by disclosing his transgender status to the dealership’s other employees.

On October 12, Beasley filed a motion to dismiss Rudkin’s claims that his privacy was violated by saying the disclosure of his trans status was an “exercise of the right of free speech on a matter of public concern.”

In seeking to quash Rudkin’s claims of invasion of privacy, Beasley invoked the Texas Citizen’s Participation Act, a statute that allows the filing of an early motion to dismiss, “designed to protect the defendant from having to litigate meritless cases aimed at chilling First Amendment expression.”

However, in a December 28 preliminary ruling, Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin, denied the motion to dismiss, concluding the TPA is not applicable in federal court and even if it did apply, Beasley failed to prove its claim.

The preliminary ruling now goes to District Judge Lee Yeakel to be formally adopted, modified or reversed. In most instances, a district judge follows the ruling made by the magistrate judge.

Rudkin’s original suit against Beasley is stayed until Judge Yeakel’s final ruling is made. His attorney, Justin P. Nichols, told Out In SA he expects to resume work on the case very soon.

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