Retired Maryland Police Officer’s Personal Disagreement with Co-Worker Not Protected by First Amendment

By: Loyd Willaford and Clive Pontusson

In Carey v. Throwe, a federal court determined that misleading statements made by former colleagues and supervisors of a police officer were not retaliation for exercise of his First Amendment rights, because his comments were not protected by the First Amendment. Because Norris Carey’s statements were not about a “matter of public concern” they were not protected, and therefore he was not a victim of unlawful retaliation. His lawsuit was dismissed by the Court. [Read more…]

Right to Mustache’s sustained: Arbitrator Finds That Air Force’s Firefighter CBA Trumps Employer’s General Grooming Standard

By:  Jim Cline and Clive Pontusson

In Department of the Airforce, Arbitrator John Nicholas determined that a government employer had a right to set firefighter mustache standards because they had an effect on the employer’s ability to give fitness tests. The Union had filed a grievance because it felt the Department of the Air Force had applied the wrong rules under the CBA. The Arbitrator agreed that this was true, but also found that the union’s requested relief would incur additional costs—as a result, the best remedy was the employer simply applying the correct rule. [Read more…]

Arbitrator Finds That Detention Center Had Just Cause to Terminate Corrections Officers for Dishonesty

By: Jim Cline and Clive Pontusson

In The Geo Group, Arbitrator Samuel Nicholas found that a detention center had just cause to terminate five corrections officers who had engaged in misconduct and then sought to cover the misconduct up. After one officer left his post in violation of detention center rules, four others amended statements about the incident. The Arbitrator found that the employer had conducted a thorough and fair investigation that produced clear and convincing evidence of misconduct. As a result, the termination of these four employees was upheld. [Read more…]

Union Did Not Breach Duty of Fair Representation by Declining to Grieve Pennsylvania Firefighter’s Termination

By: Jim Cline and Clive Pontusson

In Addeo v. Philadelphia Firefighter and Paramedic Union, a firefighter sued both the City of Philadelphia and his union for violating his due process rights and his right to fair representation. Addeo had been fired following a DUI, and when the Union decided not to pursue his grievance, he filed a personal lawsuit that accused both the City and the union of misconduct. However, a federal judge dismissed all of Addeo’s lawsuit, finding that both the City and the Union had behaved properly.

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Dismissal of Kansas Police Department Secretary Who Gave Testimony Against Department Not a Violation of First Amendment

By: Loyd Willaford and Matt Baker

In Helget v. City of Hays, a former administrative secretary to a police department claimed that her First Amendment rights were violated after she was terminated for testifying about confidential information. The department argued that the speech was not protected because it did not touch on a matter in the public interest and it disrupted department functions. The Tenth Circuit Court agreed and dismissed the administrative secretary’s claims. [Read more…]

Right of South Carolina Deputy to Free Speech Depends On Whether His Speech Will Be Disruptive

By: Loyd Willaford Clive Pontusson

In Billioni v. Bryant, the U.S. Court of Appeals found that a trial court had applied an incorrect legal standard to an Officer’s claim that his First Amendment right to free speech had been violated. Billioni was an employee of the York County Detention Center who discussed video footage of the alleged beating of a detainee with the press. When he was fired for doing so, he filed a lawsuit claiming he had a right under the First Amendment to bring this information to the public. This raised complex legal issues, and the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a narrow ruling regarding the test for when a government employee may share confidential information that may be of concern to the public. Billioni’s lawsuit will therefore continue in a lower court. [Read more…]

New York Port Authority Safety Officer Cannot Move Forward with Rehabilitation Act Claim after Injury

By: Loyd Willaford and Matt Baker

In Itzhaki v. Port Auth. of N.Y & N.J., a port authority public safety officer claimed that she was discriminated against on the basis of an injury sustained at work. The officer alleged that she would have been promoted to sergeant but for her injury.  The Port Authority moved for summary judgement and argued that her injury precluded her from being on the job and therefore that she couldn’t perform the essential functions of the job. The U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of New York agreed and granted the Port Authority’s motion.

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South Carolina Officer’s Suspension May Have Been Retaliation for Filing EEOC Claim

By: Loyd Willaford and Clive Pontusson

In Addison v. Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, a federal court in South Carolina ruled that a Sheriff’s Deputy had provided enough evidence to show that her 3-day suspension may have been in retaliation for filing a complaint of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Even though the Sheriff’s Office argued that the time between her Complaint to the EEOC and her suspension for insubordination was too long to make a connection between the two events, the court disagreed and found that Addison’s case should be brought before a jury. [Read more…]

Florida Officer Has an Interest in His Reputation, and a Right to Due Process

By: Loyd Willaford and Clive Pontusson

In Hollant v. City of North Miami, a federal court in Florida ruled that an officer who was fired for alleged misconduct may continue with a lawsuit arguing that his termination violated his constitutional rights. Following an officer-involved shooting, Hollant was falsely accused of falsifying records by another Officer, and later by a City Councilman. Despite the fact that Hollant was not the Officer who shot someone, he was then moved into a pre-disciplinary proceeding. He was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses against him, and he alleged he was not given an opportunity to clear his name. The Court determined that Hollant had brought forward enough facts showing that he was denied due process of law, and that therefore he could sue the City and many of his supervisors.  [Read more…]

Federal Court Holds that Indiana State Police Academy Made Reasonable Effort to Accommodate Recruit with Diabetes

By: Cynthia McNabb and Clive Pontusson

In Reeder v. Carter, a recruit with the Indiana State Patrol brought suit in federal district court alleging that he had been discriminated against on account of his disability. Dillon Reeder had begun the ISP Recruit Academy and performed well, but was diagnosed with Diabetes and had to be hospitalized. During his treatment, the State Patrol made efforts to accommodate his condition, including special meals and reduced physical activity. However, the Patrol believed that Reeder could not complete the training program.  Further, Reeder did not complete all of the coursework as part of the training program while he was in the hospital and when he was released from the hospital but not allowed to perform full-duty physical activities. As a result, Reeder was dismissed from the Academy. He was given the option of attending the Academy the following year, and also given the option of accepting a civilian job with the Patrol as a dispatcher. Reeder refused both offers. He filed a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that the State Patrol had not done enough to accommodate his condition. The court disagreed, and found that the Patrol had done everything required by the law to attempt to accommodate Reeder’s disability. The court therefore dismissed Reeder’s lawsuit.

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