Terminated New Jersey Police Officer’s First Amendment Claim Fails After Federal Court Finds Retaliation Based on Mistaken Perception of Free Speech Not Actionable

By Emily Nelson

free speechJeffrey Heffernan, a police officer in the City of Paterson, New Jersey, sued the City for retaliation after he was demoted from Detective to Patrol Officer for engaging in protected speech. Heffernan was demoted the day after other police officers observed him meeting with a Mayoral Candidate’s Campaign Manager to pick up a campaign lawn sign for his ill mother while he was off duty. However, in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, a Federal District Court dismissed Heffernan’s claims, finding that an employee cannot bring a first amendment retaliation claim based on an Employer’s mistaken perception that the Employee is engaging in political speech—there must be some evidence that the individual actually engaged in the speech for which they are retaliated against.

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Firefighter with Only One Good Eye Still May Retain Employment Rights

By Emily Nelson

panning_firetruckAnthony Rorrer, a firefighter for the City of Stow, Ohio, alleged the City violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing him after he completely lost vision in one eye in a non-work related accident. In Rorrer v. City of Stow, a Federal Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s grant of Summary Judgment to the City, allowing Rorrer’s ADA claims against the City to proceed.

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As Expected, Supreme Court Acknowledges First Amendment Speech Protection for Public Employee that Testifies Pursuant to Subpoena

By Jim Cline

whistleblower1

As had been widely anticipated, the United States Supreme Court in Lane v. Franks overturned a ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that had found that a Georgia community college administrator was unprotected by the first amendment when he was retaliated against following his sworn court testimony.

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In Closely Watched Decision, Supreme Court declines to Hold Mandatory Union Dues Clauses Unconstitutional — For Now

By Jim Cline

Supreme Court JusticesIn a decision on a case that had presented significant financial and operational important to Public Employee Unions, the United States Supreme Court held this Monday in Harris v Quinn that the Illinois law, as applied to a special class of home health care workers, unconstitutionally imposed a “fair share” dues payment  requirement.

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Pending Supreme Court Decision May Require Supreme Court to Broaden Narrow Workplace Speech Protections

By Jim Cline

Free Speech 2A case currently pending before the US Supreme Court may challenge the Court’s previous holdings that workplace speech that touches on a public employee’s “job duties falls outside the protection of the First Amendment. The Lane v. Franks involved an Alabama Community College employee who was terminated in retaliation for his subpoenaed testimony. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because his testimony was in furtherance of his actual job duties, it did not fall under the “job duties” exception to the First Amendment enunciated by the Supreme Court in 2006 in Garcetti v. Calleballos.

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Now it’s the City’s “Problem”: Federal Court Finds New Mexico Corrections Officer Can Proceed with Claim that City Failed to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation for Her Depression, Insomnia, and Migraine Headaches

By Emily Nelson

Not my problemRuby Maes, a former corrections officer at the City of Española Detention Facility, sued the City and the Detention Facility’s Director for disability discrimination, alleging that it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability, responding to her request telling her that her health issues were “your problem.”  The City filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Maes’s medical conditions (depression, severe insomnia, and migraines) did not qualify as a “disability” because the inability to sleep does not “substantially limit a major life activity,” under the ADA.  The federal district court of New Mexico disagreed with the City, finding, among other things, that such conditions do qualify as a disability, and allowed Maes to proceed with her discrimination claims. [Read more...]

Federal Court Finds Mississippi Police Officer’s Facebook Comments Criticizing Department’s Decision Not to Attend Funeral of Officer Killed in the Line of Duty Not Protected Speech

By Emily Nelson

Thumbs DownSusan Graziosi, a sergeant of the Greenville Mississippi Police Department, alleged she was fired in retaliation for posting criticisms of her police Chief Freddie Cannon on Facebook The federal district court dismissed her free speech claim in Graziosi v. City of Greenville, finding that the Chief was justified in firing her in order to minimize disruption in the department.

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Massachusetts Paramedic’s USERRA Claims Denied When He Fails to Prove Discrimination, Not Budget Cuts, Was Reason for Termination

By Emily Nelson

LayoffIn Rebello v. City of New Bedford, a federal district court granted summary judgment to the City on a Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) claim, after Paramedic Joseph J. Rebello failed to establish that his reserve service was the proximate cause of his discharge when he was laid off during a city-wide staffing reduction.

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Sergeant’s Inaction Found to be Sufficient to Make Prima Facie Harassment Claims against Him

By Oliver Enquist

two 3d humans look at human with megaphoneIn Ellis v. Houston, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of five African American corrections officers who brought claims against five of their supervisors for race based harassment and retaliation.  The appellate court ruled that the officers’ claims stated a cause of action and reversed a district court ruling that had dismissed all the allegations. [Read more...]

Pennsylvania District Court Finds Chief’s Badmouthing and Sharing of Officer’s Personal Medical Information Does Not Qualify As Unlawful Retaliation for Officer’s Disability Accommodation Request

By Emily Nelson

Case Dismissed 4Plaintiff Leif Henry, a police officer for the City of Allentown, Pennsylvania, filed suit against the City alleging, among other things, disability discrimination and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act after a superior officer complained about Henry’s request for a medical accommodation, and Henry was then subjected to an internal affairs investigation. The district court dismissed both claims in Henry v. City of Allentown, finding that Henry had not shown that he suffered an “adverse employment action” by his superior officer, Chief Roger MacLean.

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